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Limits to My Liberalism

aardvark against white background

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Rabbi Rami warns of the slippery slope of rat-aardvark marriage.

I consider myself quite liberal. That’s why I’m always shocked when I find myself on the conservative side of an issue. Case in point: Alabama Public Television’s recent refusal to broadcast an episode of the PBS cartoon show “Arthur” because the episode, “Mr. Ratburn and the Special Someone,” focused on the marriage of Mr Ratburn, a rat, and his beloved friend Patrick, an aardvark. 

While liberals decried the decision not to air the cartoon as an act of homophobia, I sided with the APT. Who is going to complain about gay marriage in this day and age? My goodness, we may well have a gay president in Mayor Pete. This isn’t about gay marriage, it is about rat-aardvark marriage.

The problem isn’t that Mr. Ratburn and Patrick the aardvark are the same sex, the problem is that they are not the same species. An aardvark is the only remaining species of the genus Orycteropus. Rats come in two species: Rattus rattus and Rattus norvegicus. The Bible is very clear about the prohibition against mixing species: Leviticus 19:19: “You shall not breed one kind of cow with another”; and Deuteronomy 22:9-11: “You shall not plow with an ox and an ass together.” I’m not certain as to why inter-cow love is prohibited, but the law against plowing with an ox and and ass is clearly a prohibition against workplace romance. While the Bible never imagines the union of a rat with an aardvark, the rule about oxen and donkeys can be understood to cover all inter-species unions.

Mr. Ratburn may love Patrick, and Patrick may love Mr. Ratburn but they cannot marry. As the Bible makes clear marriage is between one man and as many women as he can afford which is why I support not airing this episode of “Arthur.” Imagine the conversation around the dinner table after your children watch this episode. “Mommy, can a rat marry an aardvark? What about a fish and a dog? Or a bear and a bumble bee?” You can see where this is going. If Mr. Ratburn is allowed to marry Patrick the aardvark, how long before your own children come home with a beloved prehistoric Orycteropus of their own?

PS: Just so you know, I’m also opposed to forcing florists, bakers, and photographers to participate in rat-aardvark marriages, inter-cow marriages, and any ceremony involving someone who plows with an ox yoked to an ass.

Want more? Read about how the Defense of Marriage Act was struck down, during the continuing fight for LGBT equality. 

Rabbi Rami Shipiro

Rabbi Rami Shapiro is an award-winning author, essayist, poet, and teacher. In the print version of our magazine, he has an advice column, “Roadside Assistance for the Spiritual Traveler,” addressing reader questions pertaining to religion, spirituality, faith, family, God, social issues, and more. His latest book is Surrendered—The Sacred Art. Rabbi Rami hosts our podcast, “Essential Conversations.”

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