Sunday, November 19, 2006

About God and Gays

Howling Latina is on a spiritual winning streak.

Trolling through the blogosphere, she came across this gem of an article on Record Net that refutes the biggest canard told by religious zealots regarding God and gays.

The headline reads, "Dont' take God's word too literally."

The word of God condemns homosexuality, a Record letter writer said ("Record column seems to have missed the point," Nov. 9).

Since Jesus of Nazareth never spoke on the subject, one assumes the reference is to Leviticus, the third book of the Jewish Torah and the Christian Bible.

Leviticus, compiled almost two millenia before the birth of Jesus, contains hundreds of religious, dietary and social regulations for the Israelites from an age when a people's survival depended on tribal cohesion, a safe diet, elementary sanitation and a high birth rate.

Has he actually read this book? If so, does he truly believe all of its contents are relevant to Christians and Jews today?

Do we regularly sacrifice an ox, sheep or goat at church? Do we keep women in our families in purdah for five days each month?

Do men's beards remain unshaven since they first appeared? Do religionists stone to death fortune tellers, magicians and those who deny God?

Do people commit adultery only with their servants and enslave only those of differing religions?

If people ignore these commands and restrictions, why then are they obsessed with the one rule among many that opposes homosexuality?

Do they believe homophobic diatribes prove that they're exclusively heterosexual?

They should realize that, especially after the scandal involving the stridently homophobic Rev. Ted Haggard, it doesn't work that way.

The sentiments of HL, exactly, to the very last word! Perhaps she'll post a few more delicacies in the future from the Old Testament, you know, like the lovely story of Lot and his maiden daughters and that business about wine, caves and incest, si?!?

You may want to review Romans 1:26-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 and 1 Timothy 1:9-10 in order to more clearly understand what God commands us to do.
Religious Tolerance has some good information on this topic. Here's the link

Romans, Cortinthians and Timothy were letters written by Paul.

Jesus never talked about sexual immorality except here. That is, when confronted with hypocrites, these were His words in John 8:1-8.

"But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisses brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, 'Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adulter. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?' They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

"But Jesus bend down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straigtened up and said to them, 'If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."

Greg, I know you are a prayerful man. Read his passage in the privacy of your hearth and ponder all its meaning.

I don't pretend to be a theologian or Biblical scholar, but I don't see much point in quoting scripture in an attempt to justify or refute the merits of the current wave of bigotry directed at homosexuals by many supposedly Christian groups. I need only look to an American history book to find striking parallels with the current situation.

One hundred and fifty years ago there were thousands of sermons preached in America that assured the faithful that God thought human slavery was just dandy. I have read some of the writings of these preachers. They sincerely felt that those abolitionist preachers up north were promoting the will of Satan by calling for an end to slavery. I think we would find universal agreement today that they were mistaken.

Fifty years ago the descendants of these same preachers told us that God supported segregation and Jim Crow laws that horribly degraded an entire segment of our population. Just like their predecessors they quoted extensively from the Bible to "prove" that this was the will of God. They were dead wrong. I'd hope we can also get universal agreement on that too.

So when a new generation of nice Christian folks starts telling me the Bible "proves" that God supports bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals I am more that a bit skeptical. I don't need an extensive knowledge of scripture to be pretty sure they are no more correct than those that came before them using religion as a justification for their own personal prejudice.

There is no requirement in America that people like all their neighbors or approve all their actions. To live in peace however, we must respect each other's differences and refrain from trying to impose our own religious dictates upon the lives of others.

In short, worry about how you conduct your own life and extend the same courtesy to others.
Without "law", there's not much meaning to "gospel". While I appreciate the message from John 8 about how we should be compassionate to sinners like ourselves, we are instructed to abhor sin, do our best to help others not sin, and when we inevitably do sin ask for forgiveness properly and do our best to sin no more, subject to the limitations of our very imperfect being. What makes forgivness so powerful to me is the full recognition of what God's law commands and how poorly I follow that law as hard as I try to do so. Gospel without law risks being forgivness for nothing.

My understanding of the Bible does not distinguish relative authorities of the different books -- they are all the inspired word of God, with equal authority because they all have the same ultimate source of divinity. If we accept some parts of the Bible and disregard or downgrade others, we're making arbitrary human reasonings of what the Word is based on what we would want the Bible to say rather than what it actually does say. It would seem to be a false teaching in my view on that basis.

Paul speaks to me with the same power, authority and forcefullness of all of the other prophets and apostles. And when he clearly states that homosexuality is a sin, because I believe in the truthfulness of the Word I believe in the truthfullness of that part of the Word as well.

I remember that passage, and others that relate to it from Matthew in particular, and hope that revisiting them will help me to do a beter job of dealing with sinners like myself in the way that God has instructed me. Thank you for helping me to fulfill my responsibilities for regularly studying and thinking about the Bible.
Amen, Brother Dan!
Watch that Brother Dan stuff! I am frequently asked not to linger too long in church buildings for fear the pews may catch fire.
Greg, I notice that you don't address what Dan has said about those same scriptures being used to justify slavery and segregation. Do you also support slavery and segregation? If not, how do you manage to disregard those parts of scripture that have been used to justify them? Please explain how your interpretations are anything other than arbitrary. Are you better or smarter than those preachers of 150 years ago?
One of my favorite ways to dispute bigotry towards homosexuality is to say that the bible says we cannot judge OTHER PEOPLE, that is to be left to God(I can't site the exact book though..), but nobody seems to want to quote that when they read off 39489304 pages of scripture they THINK tells them to commit acts of hate against gays.

Anyway, (and I feel like a broken record saying it), nice find, and write up.
I think this shows the importance of each person actually reading the Bible rather than blindly following what they are told by another person. Almost anything can be made to look as if the Bible condones it if the proper verses are taken out of context. I can’t say I’m all that familiar with the “proof texts” that support slavery or segregation but I suspect they were taken out of context. Power corrupts and sadly some people are willing to distort God’s word to promote their own personal agendas.

The new covenant does speak about homosexuality and it is not at all what I would call flattering but that gives no one license to mistreat anyone. To be violent, hateful or disrespectful goes against all that we are taught. To say that being gay means that God doesn’t love you is very wrong and goes against scripture. (And, yes, I do have verses to back this “liberal” idea up.)

Greg L is right. We can’t just pick and choose parts of the Bible to follow or ignore. It is you prerogative to disregard anything not printed in red ink but in doing this some of the most beautiful pictures of God’s love and forgiveness are thrown out. When people only choose to give validity to the parts that agree with their views we are left with an incomplete warped Christianity. As Dan pointed out this type of thinking was used to justify some horrible practices. The scriptures must be read and understood as a whole.

I agree with HL about using Leviticus to preach against homosexuality. I find it laughable that anyone even tries that anymore. Ignorance must be a very powerful thing.
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