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What God wants

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I suppose it’s a good thing that most evangelical Christian nutcases don’t really have the cruelty of their convictions when it comes to gays. Sayeth Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination.” This is the verse most popularly used by gay-hating Christians to prove that God is on their side. It’s right there in black and white! they exclaim, as if the whole thing is out of their hands.

Of course, that same verse goes on to say about men-laying men, “…they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Which clearly calls for the death penalty for homosexual behavior–with no exceptions (“surely”). It’s right there in black and white. But “kill the fags!” isn’t a terribly popular sentiment, even among Christian evangelicals. It seems a tad…extreme. So right in the middle of Leviticus 20:13, gay-hating Christians perform an abrupt one-eighty: While God certainly denounces the queers, He was wrong about the whole kill-them-all thing. Infallible, all-knowing God was right about the sin, but wrong about punishment for the sinner. Silly God–I guess He can’t be infallible all the time.

If only Nigerian Muslims could be as benevolently hypocritical as their Christian brethren. Amina Lawal is about to be killed by the state for pulling a Kobe Bryant–the crime of adultery. Unfortunately for Ms. Lawal, Nigerian Muslims really do have the cruelty of their convictions.

It takes less than 30 seconds to sign an Amnesty International petition protesting God’s will.

(Posted both to Blogcritics and to Brian Flemming’s Weblog.)

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About Brian Flemming

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    You are absolutely right Brian. Words have meaning. Moreover, I suggest that you keep this understanding of the Bible in mind when next you feel an urge to bash Falwell or Robertson. They’re easy targets. They’re also just the messengers for Jesus and his Bible. As Sinead O’Connor would say, “Fight the real enemy!”

    Natalie should be along any minute though to explain how it’s really just a matter of interpretation, and the Bible doesn’t mean what the words obviously say and imply, and that Jebus has no problem whatsoever with guys going rump roving.

  • http://bias.blogfodder.net susanna

    The two of you sound as if not more hateful than any frothing “Christian fundamentalist” I’ve ever heard about. Perhaps you should look up “mote” and “beam” in your well-worn King James version.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Susanna- Bullshit. Recognizing what the book says does not make me hateful. Indeed, I argue for understanding and tolerance both for homosexuals and Christians.

    This messenger refuses to get shot. You think you can shut down debate by accusing us of evil hate just for noticing what the book actually says, rather than what you or I might like for it to say. This is unacceptable.

    Perhaps you’d like to offer an argument showing how we’re wrong in our interpretation of the text rather than simply saying that we’re bad.

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie Davis

    Nah, I’m fucking tired of having to explain myself over and over, posting links people don’t visit or explore. Believe what you want. But get your damned religious beliefs out of the law.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Easy Natalie. I am obviously NOT a believer, and I certainly do NOT wish to pile more stupid sex-crime laws on, as you know.

    I have in fact visited some of the links and websites you have posted. Thing is, no amount of talking and writing will make the Bible say other than what it says.

    HERE’S A LINK to a Derbyshire column in response to the current Episcopalian issues with some summary of the writings of Joachim of Flora and the “eternal gospel.” How close does the description of his “eternal gospel” idea correspond to your thinking?

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie Davis

    I will keep my opinions of Derbyshire to myself. He has his theologians; I have mine. In the end, we’ll find out who was right. At least God will know that I worked for justice for everybody and for the exclusion of no one.

  • ClubhouseCancer

    I have never agreed more strongly with Nat than above. Ghost stories and ancient fairy tales about gods and snakes and water-walkers are plenty fun, but keep them out of the law. And, yes, I’m talking to you, George “Missed You at Bible Study” Bush

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie Davis

    Thanks, CC

    Al wrote: “Thing is, no amount of talking and writing will make the Bible say other than what it says.”

    Do you read Aramaic? Then you don’t know what the hell it’s supposed to say.

  • The Theory

    and of course, 99.9% of the population doesn’t…

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie Davis

    True that. But there are scholars who do and who know that the prohibitions in the Bible are speaking about temple prostitution and other pagan practices, and certainly not about loving, committed, monogamous same-gender relationships.

    Ultimately, it comes down to what one believes. Me, I trust those scholars more than Falwell or the Pope or Al Barger any day of the week.

    In any event, that’s religion. And it should keep its mitts off the law that governs believers and nonbelievers. And gummint should get out of the business of punishing people on the basis of certain people’s religious beliefs.

    That’s it for me. I’ve been blogging all day and getting more and more angry by what I’m reading here, in the news, all the way around. (Today’s postings on All Facts and Opinions will explain the anger.) Have to go pay respects to my childhood priest, a loving, decent, justice-minded man who died Saturday; his wake is tonight. Yeah, me in a Catholic church. Afterward, I’ll be busy retching.

  • andy

    hopefully your Bible scholars don’t go to aramaic texts to interpret “origional text” since the origional texts are in Greek and Hebrew

  • http://bias.blogfodder.net susanna

    Chill, Al. I was just pointing out that the comments about Christians weren’t precisely reasoned and fair; more spittle-flecked than anything. There was no “debate” going on, and I certainly would never try to shut it down if there were. As for a point by point discussion, I don’t intend to get into a theological discussion in a comments section. I’d be more than happy to discuss it via email if you have questions.

  • http://www.slumdance.com/blogs/brian_flemming/ Brian Flemming

    susanna,

    Why is it that you can accuse Al and me of being “hateful” here in the comments (citing no specific evidence, naturally), but your substantive contributions to this discussion are so secret that they can only be communicated to Al via email?

  • http://www.dawnolsen.com Dawn

    Speaking of significant books that can teach us important things about humans, have you read “Everybody Poops”?

    Really, it some ways it’s more relevant than the bible – and to be honest, if it isn’t in then Ten Commandments then who cares?

    By the way, everybody does poop, and if we were a really productive society, everyone would have adult consensual sex until they die of orgasms.

    Am I right or what?

  • Eric Olsen

    I would throw in a fair amount of the New Testament as being pretty key since forgiveness and grace are pretty good wildcards, no?

    I actually interpret this as Brian being genuinely charitable to Christians for not taking their dogma too literally, other than fundamentalists, but even our fundamentalists are considerably more flexible than, say, Osama bin Laden.

  • http://www.morethings.com/log Al Barger

    Miss Sussana- Sorry if my language is a bit, um, curt. If you have any good arguments to show that the Bible both old and new testaments does NOT condemn homosexual behavior as sinful, I would be pleased to consider them, either here or in a new post or in my email.

    Actually Natalie, I have studied the Greek language. At one point I was reasonably fluent enough in the old Greek to read the New Testament in the original tongue. [It was much easier Greek reading than Plato or Aristotle, for sure.] You could argue over the artistic judgment of some few choices of words, but I found it to say about the same thing as the good old King James Version.

    Thing is, the issue is not just a single verse in Leviticus, or one or two isolated verses. It’s the whole tone and thrust of Christian doctrine, which is pretty substantially anti-sex in general.

    Again, you have every right to interpret scripture your own way, even if your interpretations look indefensible to me.

    Again, I TOTALLY AGREE with you that we shouldn’t have secular laws based on the Biblical interpretations of fundamentalist Christians. I am not a Christian, and do not support a Christian theocracy. I’m just saying that the book says what it says, not whatever you or I would like for it to say.

    XOX

  • andy

    I am a Christian, and I agree w/ you Al. I try my damnedest to not confuse my faith w/ politics. Way I see things, my moral standard is not everyones’, and I have NO right to tell someone else they’re “living in sin” who doesn’t believe what I believe. I do not believe in turning anyone away from the church either. Jesus said that he came to be a doctor to the sick, and by God, I’m just as sick as anyone else. I do draw the line at church leadership though. I would hope that anyone in a possition of leadership is not partaking in any sexually immoral activity(be it effin around on your wife, being a whore, whatever). As far as this post is concerned, again, I point out the purpose of Levitical law, for old covenant Israel, not for the new covenant Church.

  • http://gratefuldread.net/fando/ Natalie Davis

    I have returned from the wake. I am exhausted, sad, filled with love for Father Henry.

    As I said earlier, I refuse to say anything more about it (save to Andy, if I am not welcome in leadership, I am not welcome. if i am not welcome, then i can not see your church as being of God or Jesus. no disrespect intended, just being honest). Instead, I will post this commentary I found from a United Methodist Church clergyperson and leave this topic to the rest of you.

    Note: UMNS = United Methodist News Service
    ===========

    A UMNS Commentary
    By the Rev. Tex Sample

    The case of Bishop Gene Robinson of the Episcopal Church raises the issue of whether a bishop engaged in a homosexual relationship ought to be confirmed. I contend that on a matter of this kind, the primary focus of the church needs to be on marriage, and in this case, homosexual marriage.

    Let’s look at this question in terms of Scripture and the tradition of the church.

    The term “homosexuality” as we understand it today appears nowhere in Scripture. In fact, the word was not coined until the 19th century. Moreover, there is no evidence that the Scripture addresses the matter of sexual orientation as that characteristic is now understood. In Scripture, the attention is given to same-sex practices. It is a minor concern and appears in only five passages. (I exclude two passages on same-sex rape that are not under consideration here. Rape of any kind is wrong.) Biblical scholars hotly contest all of these passages.

    Two passages in the Hebrew Scriptures prohibit same-sex practices. These passages, in Leviticus 18 and 20, are known as the “Holiness Code.” There is little question that a good deal of the Holiness Code has been surpassed and transformed by the teaching of Jesus and the New Testament church – for example, the code’s purity guidelines and drastic punishments that are not in the spirit of Christ. Much of the code is not regarded as authoritative for the church today. To make a case against homosexual marriage, one must go beyond these texts.

    In the New Testament, three passages cast same-sex practices in a negative light. I Corinthians 6:9 names two groups that will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Two Greek words are used for these groups, and their translation is a matter of contention among New Testament scholars.

    One of the words, “malakoi,” means “soft” and “effeminate,” morally and in other ways.
    The translation of the other word, “arsenokoitai,” is highly contested. Its meaning is not clear. This second word is also used in I Timothy 1:10. Some claim that it refers to an active or superior man engaging in intercourse with a passive, inferior one. Others maintain that it is a reference to same-sex prostitution. Still other studies suggest that the acts cited in these passages involve some kind of economic exploitation, and so on.

    In none of these cases can one move to a blanket condemnation of all same-sex practices. Too many kinds of same-sex activity fall outside these prohibitions.

    The most important text is Romans 1:24-27. Here, Paul is addressing the idolatry of Gentiles. In this idolatry, God gives these Gentiles up “to degrading passions” expressed in same-sex relations by both men and women (this is the only time women are addressed in terms of same-gender sexual acts in Scripture). The same-sex practices in this passage result from idolatry.

    Moreover, Paul sees sexual desire as of one kind. That is, same-sex desire is not a different sexual orientation in Paul, but rather an inordinate and excessive desire. The desire that, say, a man has for a woman is the same desire in same-sex desire, only of greater degree. So, because of their idolatry God gives up the Gentiles to this excessive desire and same-sex practices.

    To be sure, sexual practices growing out of idolatry should be condemned, whether they are homosexual or heterosexual. This prohibition, however, does not address a host of same-sex practices, as it does not address heterosexual practices that do not result from idolatry.

    In short, all of the references to same-sex activity in Scripture are negative. It is not condoned anywhere. Yet, each passage either occurs in a biblical context that has been surpassed and transformed (the Holiness Code), or it addresses specific instances that can’t be generalized.

    To address Christian homosexual marriage, one must look at the tradition of the church. St. Augustine is the major figure in the church’s teachings on marriage. For him, marriage is an office, a duty in which one serves the church and the larger society. He sees marriage serving three purposes.

    · Raising children for the Kingdom of God. For Augustine this does not mean primarily having children of one’s own in a biological sense.
    · Enabling couples to learn faithfulness to each other and to God.
    · Fulfilling a sacramental end, in which Augustine emphasizes that marriage cannot be dissolved.

    These three ends are sustained in the later Middle Ages. In the Reformation, they are basically accepted but with modifications. Marriage as an official sacrament of the church is rejected, but it continues to be sacramental – that is, it can point to God, especially in the mutuality and companionship of couples with each other.

    Centuries later, when John Wesley edits the Book of Common Prayer and sends it to the United States in 1784, he keeps the section that lays out the three purposes. However, in a 1792 revision of the marriage liturgy, U.S. Methodists drop these three ends. Since then, marriage as loving companionship has been central, though fidelity and the indissolubility of marriage are not absent. The procreative end is no longer or seldom used.

    The point is that marriage in the Christian tradition serves a number of purposes: procreation, fidelity, sacrament, mutual support and companionship, mutual society and loving companionship. What is striking is that all of these ends can be met by homosexual marriages, even the procreative end when the procreative end is understood as raising children for the Kingdom of God and not primarily as a function of nature.

    On these grounds, it is appropriate for gay and lesbian Christians to be married in the church, and it is not in violation of Scripture or tradition.

    Some Christians object to this argument by raising up Mark 10:7-8, in which Jesus states, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” The argument is then made that this is the only form scriptural marriage can take.

    The issue addressed in this passage, however, is divorce. Jesus is responding to a hard-hearted test of his authority. Extending his response to a blanket denial of homosexual marriage goes well beyond the text. Moreover, it is uttered by a single Christ who did indeed leave his mother and father to engage in his incarnate mission. So long as we are dealing with a single Christ who left father and mother for a different reason, we must be open to other possible options, especially options that fulfill the ends of Christian marriage as it is traditionally understood.

    Biblical teaching does not address a host of same-sex practices, among them homosexual marriage. Moreover, the ends of marriage as understood in the tradition of the church are ends that homosexual marriage can fulfill.

    So the issue in the confirmation of a bishop in a homosexual relationship is not whether he or she is gay, nor even whether he or she is a practicing homosexual. The question is: Is he or she married to this partner, and if so, does this marriage meet these ends?
    # # #
    The Rev. Tex Sample is the Robert B. and Kathleen Rogers emeritus professor of church and society at Saint Paul School of Theology in Kansas City, Mo. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person and coordinator of the Network for the Study of U.S. Lifestyles in Phoenix. In this commentary, he is indebted to the work of Daniel M. Bell Jr.

  • the name with no name

    to my mind, if you need to turn to a book – any book – to make, or back up basic judgements concerning fundamental human rights, then you are intellectually weak.

  • Judas

    Brian, I know this an old thread or whatever but, just in case you ever read this, I’ve got a few words to say. First, I agree with you that evangelicals lack the conviction of what the bible says to do with fags and lesbos in Leviticus but, that’s in the Old Testament dude, we live under New Testament laws now which state things like, love your enemies. They are quoting that passage to point out that homosexuality is WRONG, WRONG, WRONG! The Bible also states that homosexuality is wrong in the New Testament as well in Romans chapter 1, where it states that those who engage in such activity are worthy of death, and if those that live that kind of life die in that unrepented state, they shall surely receive everlasting death. If the laws of the land coincided with God’s law as they should but don’t, it would be okay to rid our society of the cancer of homosexuality and those who practice it, as well as the cancer that all liberalism brings. If God so ordained it and protected me from the blind idiot fools that think homosexuality and liberalism are good things, I would personally smite this blight from our land.