The family: original design or cultural design?


Less than a week separates us from the day when the ballot boxes will be ready for the sovereign to decide, by referendum, on the Family Code. Yes or no campaigns are intensifying. Arguments come and go. Among the affirmations repeated by those who bet vehemently on the No, is the respect for the “original design” of the family. On the cultural meanings, also seen from its linguistic roots, of this affirmation and its implications in a Cuba of the 21st century, I spoke, in a brief synthesis, with Douglas Calvo Gaínza, polyglot, philologist, philosopher, theologian , linguist, Greek-Latin translator and professor of ancient Greek.

What type of family postulates the so-called original conception?

The respectable duty and right is to preserve the nuclear family (father, mother, offspring). However, to assert that this is an “original design” derived directly from Divinity, and not from human experience and need, contradicts historical data and common sense, as demonstrated by the roots of the words in dispute today.

For example, “family” in Spanish comes from Latin, family or “servant”. Why? Well, because slaves were the legal sex toys of the slave family. Example: Hagar, this servant with whom the master Abraham had his son Ishmael, prototypically embodies the “family” – the ancient servitude.

Also, Abraham had other wives besides Sarah and Hagar. For he had several “concubines” (Genesis 25:6), of which we know of one: Cetura (1 Chronicles 1:32). Certainly, if the father of the faith respected this supposed “original design” that God requires of us, then to imitate him today would also imply implanting polygamy in Cuba, and also reviving slavery.

And there are many similar biblical examples.

Two other words accompany the debates in question: marriage and guardianship. What considerations should we pay attention to regarding the origin of the two terms?

What is presented today as “original design” is often simply “cultural design”. Specifically, a mixture of Jewish and Roman Empire social traditions.

For example, in Rome, the symbol of weddings was a veil imposed on women. The words still used today in Spanish are derived from the Latin word for “veil” (nūbo), such as “knownbio” (weddings), “núbil” (girl to be married) and “weddings”, and in the Christian church, heir to this Mediterranean-Palestinian culture, the woman had to wear the veil at all times (1 Corinthians 11:10), symbolizing the husband’s authority over his female possessions. And that is why ladies were to be silent in public and question their husbands about religion (1 Corinthians 14:33-35).

Here the nascent Church traces its socio-cultural environment. To go further: in ancient Rome, women were always under the legal guardianship of a man (tutela mulierum), as they were recognized as being of lower intelligence. The said legal guardian was either the husband or the father, and to free themselves from the guardianship, they had to have three children (juice trium liberorum). By the way, Paul also teaches: the woman “will be saved by the begetting of children” (1 Timothy 2:15).

We thus come to the root of our word “marriage”. It is divided into two parts: “matri” which comes from the Latin for “mother” (watch) and “monio” which comes from a very ancient (perhaps Etruscan) particle that indicated the act of “being something”, in this case, the mother. The old marriage has nothing to do with marriage for love, but with the legal rights that a woman acquired by being a mother, since motherhood was the sole occupation of women.

If Christian women in Cuba today were to apply these standards to the letter, they would have to accept practices like these:

  1. The father would determine whether or not the Cuban woman marries, and with whom. (Read, for example, 1 Corinthians 7:36-38).
  2. There would be many social limitations (in Rome, both spouses had to be free citizens, and could not be actors or strangers. In Israel, a religious minister could not marry a divorced person, Leviticus 21:7, etc.).

If a 21st century Cuban woman wishes to marry (even as a teenager) whoever her father wishes, regardless of her feelings or personal preferences, and she wishes to follow all these regulations, she can do so, c is his right. But if other women don’t want such a thing, at least she should respect them and not condemn them.

As for the “guardianship” or power of the father, it represents the absolute authority of the patriarch who can even have a disobedient son killed (Deuteronomy 21:18-21). A typical case is Lot, who offers his virgin daughters to be mass-raped by criminals (Genesis 19:6-8). Or Jephthah, who sacrifices or locks up his daughter, to fulfill a religious oath (Judges 11:31). According to our Code under discussion, these girls would be protected from this harmful action, and these parents could be – equitably – deprived of their parental responsibility for having thus risked the lives of their daughters (article 191.g).

I prefer to be friends with my children, not their owner, mutual love, more than a power of mine. Also, I understand that every blow to a child is a defeat for the parents.

The Family Code and the citizen decision

Is there only one type of family in the Bible?

There are many examples of non-monogamous families in the Bible. For example, if we talk about the “original purpose”, how can we know that polygamy is not part of it, nor is it acceptable to God, if the Lord considered famous polygamists like Jacob, David or Solomon?

But in addition, Hagar and Ishmael constitute a single-parent family (single mother with her child, not had in a legal marriage) which has divine blessing (Genesis 17:20, 21:16-20). Also remember that Ruth and Naomi live together, even though they are not related by blood. Additionally, the quoted 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 could be interpreted in Greek as two boyfriends who never marry, but are a spiritual family. In the genealogy of Jesus Christ there are illegitimate unions (like David and Uriah’s wife) whom God prospers with offspring.

Thus, there is a basis for some flexibility in the scriptures themselves.

But in reality, the Bible was written in an outdated world, with institutions that do not apply today. Even modern Israel has been forced to change many archaic customs and now accepts same-sex marriage.

Nor can our churches literally apply these familiar, decontextualized biblical models. For example, daughters of a deceased father without male issue could only marry men of their own tribe (Numbers 36). Where are the tribal genealogies of Cuban evangelical marriages? How are they going to comply with rules like this?

Finally, we must mention the levirate marriage, in which a widowed woman could not marry whomever she wanted, but with the brother of the deceased, in order to give offspring to the deceased (Deuteronomy 25:5-6; Matthew 22:23-28 ). The story of Judah taking a wife for his offspring, imposing widowhood on her until her other son grows up, ordering her to be burned, etc. (Genesis 38) well represents these pre-modern customs, which today swirl against our Family Code, which establishes love as the law.

Ariel Dacal Diaz


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