11.21.2006

The Problem with Leviticus

Shakes Sis has a great take on this article. (Go read it.) I'm going to concentrate on a different part of the piece, so hopefully she won't accuse me of post-stealing. From the USA Today:

What if Christian leaders are wrong about homosexuality?

[...]

Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

[...]

So, why are so many church leaders (not to mention Orthodox Jewish and Muslim leaders) persisting in their view that homosexuality is wrong despite a growing stream of scientific evidence that is likely to become a torrent in the coming years? The answer is found in Leviticus 18. "You shall not lie with a man as with a woman; it is an abomination."

As a former "the Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it" kind of guy, I am sympathetic with any Christian who accepts the Bible at face value. But here's the catch. Leviticus is filled with laws imposing the death penalty for everything from eating catfish to sassing your parents. If you accept one as the absolute, unequivocal word of God, you must accept them all.

For many of gay America's loudest critics, the results are unthinkable. First, no more football. At least not without gloves. Handling a pig skin is an abomination. Second, no more Saturday games even if you can get a new ball. Violating the Sabbath is a capital offense according to Leviticus. For the over-40 crowd, approaching the altar of God with a defect in your sight is taboo, but you'll have plenty of company because those menstruating or with disabilities are also barred.

The truth is that mainstream religion has moved beyond animal sacrifice, slavery and the host of primitive rituals described in Leviticus centuries ago. Selectively hanging onto these ancient proscriptions for gays and lesbians exclusively is unfair according to anybody's standard of ethics. We lawyers call it "selective enforcement," and in civil affairs it's illegal.
I have this sort of twisted fantasy where I impersonate a preacher. I arrive at some megachurch as a 'guest pastor' to deliver the sermon. The bulletin declares today 'Bible Believer's Day' and promises an exciting sermon that will have the congregation participating in ways they never have before.
"Good morning! As you may have read, today Biblical Inerrancy Day. I'd like to invite anybody who's gay to leave."

(The Congregation is shocked. Nobody leaves.)

"I'd also like anybody who's eaten shrimp, lobster, or catfish in the last week to please go to the narthex, where coffee and donuts are being served."

(Again, nobody leaves.)

Surely somebody here has had shrimp this week! On a salad, perhaps? At TGI Fridays? I'm very serious. According to Leviticus 11:12, to eat anything from the sea without fins or scales is sinful in the eyes of God. Please leave.

(At this point, a few people leave.)

Excellent. We're beginning our journey towards a Church that fully adheres to the Inerrant Word of God. Anybody who wears contact lenses or glasses, could you please remove yourselves from the sanctuary.

In addition, any women that are menstruating, any person that has both onions and potatoes planted in their garden, and anybody wearing a cotton/poly blend should leave now too.

Anybody who mowed their lawn Saturday or had a ham and cheese sandwich should leave...
You get the picture.

Oliver "Buzz" Thomas, the author of the article, calls attention to one of the things that has always bothered me about using Leviticus to argue against providing gay people with human rights. There are so many other parts of Leviticus that even the most Christian of people ignore.

Either you believe that everything in the Bible is completely and perfectly true (and you don't eat shrimp or mow your lawn on Saturdays) or you believe that it isn't. There is no half-way. You can't have it both ways.

This makes people uncomfortable. It exposes the fact that they're using scripture to discriminate against people they hate. At best, it's a 'biblical shield' to protect them from something that they think is 'icky.'

Oliver Thomas notes that Jesus' teachings are vastly different from what many Christianists preach. When I was growing up, the minister at my church was fond of saying 'The Devil can quote scripture for his own ends.'

We don't write laws against people that commit adultery. We don't enact legislation against people that work on the Sabbath. There is no statute on the books punishing a person from coveting his neighbor's wife or her neighbor's husband. Usury, gambling, pre-marital sex, swearing, and worshipping god's other than that of Christians are all protected or codified by law in one way or another.

This hypocrisy isn't lost on people. While Christianists loudly proclaim that America is a Christian Nation, the number of non-Christians is quietly growing. Between 1990 and 2001 the percentage of Americans that self-identify as Christian fell from 86.2% to 76.5%. At that rate, by 2042, non-Christians will outnumber Christians in the United States.

There are more Americans who say they are not affiliated with any organized religion than there are Episcopalians, Methodists, and Lutherans taken together.

Mr. Thomas tells us this:
Religion's only real commodity, after all, is its moral authority. Lose that, and we lose our credibility. Lose credibility, and we might as well close up shop.

It's happened to Christianity before, most famously when we dug in our heels over Galileo's challenge to the biblical view that the Earth, rather than the sun, was at the center of our solar system. You know the story. Galileo was persecuted for what turned out to be incontrovertibly true. For many, especially in the scientific community, Christianity never recovered.
My take: If Christians are reduced to 'the anti-gay people' in the eyes of the public, America will look like Europe by the beginning of the next century.

2 comments:

Shakespeare's Sister said...

hopefully she won't accuse me of post-stealing

LOL. If there were a one-blog-per-article rule, we'd all be in a world of hurt, G.

Great post.

MissPride said...

Beautifully said! Thank You As a out and proud lesbian I am amazed at all the hate that is directed at gays in the name of Jesus, what happened to God is Love, Love thy neighbor as thyself...etc etc. Thanks again for the wonderful article.

MissPride