churches over the issue of infant baptism and church-state separation.
English translations of the Bible appeared, and the new Church of England, controlled now by Parliament, rejected for use in the liturgy certain books of the Old Testament that had been authored in Greek and had been accepted by Rome and the Eastern Church for centuries.
After the Western Church divided, it began to sub-divide again and again over the smallest issues, such as whether women could wear slacks, or whether playing cards was a sin, or what color the hymnal had to be. Every new sect had their own doctrinal hobby horse to ride.
God never had a problem with cousins getting hitched. Milcah was married to her cousin, Nahor. They had a granddaughter named Rebecca, who later married Isaac, her first cousin once removed. Isaac instructed Jacob to marry a daughter of Rebecca’s brother. Jacob took two.
God himself commanded Zelophehad’s five daughters to marry their cousins so their inheritance would remain in the family. The accumulation of great wealth by families threatened the temporal power of the papacy. Pope Gregory I forbade Catholics from marrying their cousins.
Before the Civil War no American state banned cousin marriage. In the years following the war thirteen states did make it illegal. The United States is the only western country with cousin marriage restrictions. Twenty percent of all couples worldwide are first cousins.
Many animals including humans have evolved an aversion to mating very close within the bloodlines such as between a brother and a sister, or a son and his mother. First cousins getting together represents an optimum point between genetic diversity and sexual availability.
All of these scriptural, historical, and anthropological defences were preached by Pastor Mark Lange of Five Corners Free Congregation, who was deeply in love with his cousin Joanna. And all of this should have been a mere footnote in the annals of American Protestantism.
But Lange made it a doctrine of his church that a man could marry his cousin and no other. It was the mirror-image of Pope Gregory’s prohibition, but even in the minds of many who despised “Romanism” this made Lang’s church a cult, in the vein of the polygamous Mormons.