Read it Again

September 5, 2010


From 1830’s until 1865, some people in the southern United States spent a lot of time trying to justify the abhorrent practice of slavery.  And, the foundation for this defense rested on the Bible.  In the Old Testament, there are several passages about who the Israelites can keep as slaves.  Some of Paul’s letters talk about proper treatment of slaves.  No where in the Scriptures is the practice of slavery condemned.  It was part and parcel of the culture, in the 1st century as well as the 19th, and accepted as part of the natural order.  But, as author Eric McKitrick said in his book Slavery Defended, “Nothing is more susceptible than an argument, however ingenious, that has been discredited by events” and I think we can all agree that the events of 1861-65 and after discredited the anti-slavery argument.  In fact, the whole idea of owning another human being goes against everything Western Christianity stands for.  At least, we like to think that.

In the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and others, it says the punishment for any sexual sin (and there are others besides homosexuality) is death.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any women being stoned in the town square because they were caught running around on their husband.  Which brings up another point: The Bible seems to legitimize treating women as second class citizens.  In fact, when the Bible was written, women were little more than chattel.  Now, Mosaic law was incredibly enlightened when it was first put into place.  But, as time went by, a funny thing happened: attitudes changed.  Some of Jesus’ most radical teachings were those concerning adultery and divorce.  The remarks on those subjects in the Sermon on the Mount are directed at men, not women.  I say that because women didn’t have the power to do any of that stuff in Jesus’ day and men did.  And, they took advantage of that fact.  Turning back to Leviticus, people who strayed from the faith were ostracized.  And, being cut off from your family and friends was probably worse than death for a Bronze Age Jew.  While the Law of Moses was a vast improvement on what went before, mercy was in short supply.

Throughout the enumeration of the Law in the Old Testament, there are many different instructions about how to worship.  What animals to sacrifice, how that sacrifice is to be performed, by who and when.  There are intricate details about how to prepare yourself to go to the temple and present it.  Or, on how to cleanse oneself after committing a sin.  As for what was a sin, there were about 615 different laws that spelled that out for you.  They also dictated everything else you did, whether spiritual or secular, because to an ancient Israelite, the two were inextricably bound. 

By now, I’m sure you’re wondering where I’m going with this.  Well, I’m going to tell you right now.  Everything I’ve been talking about comes from the Bible.  And, at one time, everything listed above was accepted as absolute truth by either Christians, Jews or both.  And, we Christians have let go of a lot of these things.  Sexual sin, not so much.  And, not just any sexual sin, but the queen mother of sins: homosexuality.  Now, in general, the passages in the Bible don’t make a big distinction between, say, adultery and homosexuality.  But, in our culture, there’s a world of difference.  Oh, people won’t say so and, if you asked them, they’d deny it.  But, most folks are willing to turn at least somewhat of a blind eye to sins that involve straight sex.  If such were not the case, then the NC Baptist Conference  would have passed a resolution banning from membership anyone practicing any sort of sexual sin.  But, they didn’t.  They went after the gay folks.  The very people who they say they want to help and lead away from sin.  Yet, they pulled in the welcome mat.  In my own Methodist Church, while membership isn’t at issue, the right of all people to have their relationship blessed is.  In a day and time when we should be promoting all kinds monogamy, we don’t.  We only promote the kind that we’re comfortable with, that of man and woman.  I could possibly get on board with this if anyone could give a reason for homosexuality being a sin besides what’s in the Bible.  Because, while the Bible does say it’s a sin, it doesn’t say why.  The reasons of those early law-makers may apply to today and be totally relevant.  And, if they did, I’d be the first to say I was wrong and get with the program.  But, I seriously doubt that would be the case.  Because if it was why is it, whenever I ask, all I hear is crickets?

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