Monday, November 7, 2011

FIRST, THE GOOD NEWS - Chapter Nine




CHAPTER NINE


"Why Don't We All Just Get Stoned?"



"As long as we continue to live as if we are what we do, what we have, and what other people think about us, we will remain filled with judgments, opinions, evaluations, and condemnations. We will remain addicted to putting people and things in their "right" place."
- Henri J.M. Nouwen


ABOMINATION!!!

If I had a nickel for every time that word has been included in a letter, e-mail, text, phone message or blog comment addressed to me from a "Christian", especially in the months right after I came out, I would probably have enough money for a nice little vacation somewhere.

Hey...wait a minute...I thought this book was about GOOD NEWS, you say...what's all this ABOMINATION stuff about?

It is! It is about GOOD NEWS...and I'll get back to that topic...just got to sort through all the religious/legalistic stuff so that I can get back to the good part.

I have to address the system that uses the Scriptures as a weapon on the vulnerable, and that may get a little tedious in the next several chapters...but I promise it all ends with GOOD NEWS, so stay with me through these parts if you can...

Now, where was I?

Oh yeah...ABOMINATION!!!

That word gets thrown around a lot, especially when the religious intolerant want to make a point to prop up their personal prejudices.

Shouldn't be surprising, though....the Bible does, in fact, use the word quite a bit.

Here are but a few of the many Bible references to it:

Cheating is an abomination (Mic. 6:10).

A proud look is an abomination (Pro. 6:16-17).

A lying tongue is an abomination (Pro. 6:17; 12:22).

Hands that shed innocent blood are an abomination (Pro. 6:17).

A wicked scheming heart is an abomination (Pro. 6:18).

Feet that are quick to sin are an abomination (Pro. 6:18).

A false witness that speaks lies is an abomination (Pro. 6:19).

A sower of discord among brethren is an abomination (Pro. 6:19).

A false balance or scale is an abomination (Pro. 11:1).

The sacrifices of the wicked are an abomination (Pro. 15:8; 21:27).

The proud of heart are an abomination (Pro. 16:5).

Condemning the just is an abomination (Pro. 17:15).

Divers, dishonest weights are an abomination (Pro. 20:10, 23).

Divers, dishonest measures are an abomination (Pro. 20:10).

Refusing to hear the law is an abomination (Pro. 28:9).

The prayers of a rebel are an abomination (Pro. 28:9).

Eating the flesh of a peace offering on the 3rd day is an abomination (Lev. 7:18).

Taking ornaments from idols when they are being destroyed is an abomination (Dt. 7:25-26).

Any Idolatrous practices are abominations (Dt. 12:31; 13:14; 17:4; 18:9; 20:18; 29:17).

Offering an imperfect animal to God as a sacrifice is an abomination (Dt. 17:1).

Re-marriage of former companions is an abomination (Dt. 24:1-4).

Cheating others is an abomination (Dt. 25:13-16).

Making images or idols is an abomination (Dt. 27:15).

Incense offered by hypocrites is an abomination (Isa. 1:13).

Eating unclean things (pork, shellfish, etc.) is an abomination (Isa. 66:17).

Offering human sacrifices is an abomination (Jer. 32:35).

Robbery is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Oppression of others, particularly the poor or vulnerable is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Violence is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Breaking vows is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Lending with interest to a brother is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Sleeping with a menstruous woman is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Hardness of heart is an abomination (Ezek. 18: 6-13).

Injustice is an abomination (Ezek. 18:6-13).

Things highly esteemed by man are an abomination (Lk. 16:15).

There are even more abominations mentioned, but you get the idea...

Of course, the "abomination" that many fundamentalist Christians feel most obligated to either inform me of or remind me of is mentioned in two verses from Leviticus...Leviticus 18:22 and Leviticus 20:13...which basically say that if a man has sex with another man, they should both be killed (nothing is mentioned about Lesbians anywhere in the Old Testament).

And the ones who want to use the "A-word" to beat up the gays are not just limited to the fundamentalists.
People with virtually no knowledge of the Scriptures...people who otherwise never even think about the Bible...suddenly become authorities on Holy Writ when it comes to the subject of homosexuality. They don't care about much of anything the Bible has to say about much of anything else, but, boy, when you start talking about the gays, they start quoting the Bible like the house is on fire and water is ten miles away.






A Trip to the Library



As I've already said, "The Bible" doesn't talk about homosexuality...at least not as some kind of theme that runs through the entire collection of books. There are a handful of verses in which Moses, Paul and Jude used words that got translated into our modern understanding of people with same-sex attraction, and in this chapter I want to highlight the two verses where Moses used the "A-word"...but "The Bible", as a collection of books, not only doesn't condemn homosexuality, it doesn't even mention it.

OK, now for some of the tedious part I warned you about...my apology for that, but I need to make a point here, and that is this: the way some homophobic preachers talk, you'd think "The Bible" just talks non-stop about people with same-sex attraction, and that's just not the case.

So let's look at it, book by book.

Moses is the primary author of Genesis through Deuteronomy (known in Hebrew as The Torah). He compiled the pre-flood manuscripts of the early chapters of Genesis, along with other manuscripts from which Genesis is comprised. He wrote the other four books of the Torah during the 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness.

In Genesis there is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah, which we've already discussed.

The book of Exodus never mentions homosexuality.

The book of Leviticus mentions it twice, as I've said (referring to homosexual men only).

The book of Numbers never mentions homosexuality.

The book of Deuteronomy never mentions homosexuality.

Joshua wrote most of the book bearing his name, while Samuel completed the final portion of that book, in addition to Judges and Ruth. Samuel edited his own additions, plus portions of the Torah. Joshua never mentioned homosexuality, so the book of Joshua never mentions homosexuality.

The book of Judges never mentions homosexuality.

The book of Ruth never mentions homosexuality.

Samuel, who also wrote much of the initial chapters of I Samuel never mentioned homosexuality, so that book never menions it...unless you consider the story of David and Jonathan (more about that later)...

The prophet Isaiah wrote the remainder of I Samuel as well as II Samuel and I and II Kings, and Isaiah I and II Kings. Much of the work by Samuel and Isaiah was done by collecting and compiling older accounts recorded by prophets close to when the events took place. For example, Elijah had written much of what Isaiah compiled as part of the books of the Kings. I and II Chronicles, Ezra and Esther were recorded by Ezra, who was primarily used by God to edit, compile and canonize the entire Old Testament. So I Samuel never mentions homosexuality...

II Samuel never mentions homosexuality

I Kings never mentions homosexuality.

II Kings never mentions homosexuality.

I Chronicles never mentions homosexuality.

II Chronicles never mentions homosexuality.

In the book bearing his name, Ezra never mentions homosexuality.

...neither does Nehemiah.

...nor does the book of Esther.

The book of Job was most likely written by Job, and he never mentions homosexuality.

King David wrote more than half of the Psalms, and David never mentioned homosexuality (at least not in a negative way.)

Others portions of that book were written by Moses, Hezekiah, Solomon and others, and none of the Psalms mention homosexuality.

King Solomon also wrote Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon, and he never mentioned homosexuality in any of those books.

Isaiah, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality.

Jeremiah wrote the book bearing his name and authored the book of Lamentations, and he never mentioned homosexuality in either of them.

Ezekiel, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality.

Daniel, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality.

Hosea, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality.

Joel, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality.

Amos, in his book, never mentioned homosexuality...

neither did Obadiah...

...nor Jonah...

...nor Micah...

...nor Nahum...

...nor Habakkuk...

...nor Zephaniah...

...nor Haggai, Zechariah or Malachi.

That does it for the Old Testament, and I will devote an entire chapter to everything that Jesus said about homosexuality in the next chapter, so I won't go into Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John here. After that we'll also discuss what Paul said about it, and we've already discussed what Jude said about it in the previous chapter, so that does it for the New Testament, as well.



Playing the Leviticus Card


But for the average, run-of-the-mill homophobe, the two verses in Leviticus are enough to make the case for the hatred and intolerance of gay people. After all, Moses said to kill them, right?

Well, yeah, he did...but he said a lot of things that were just as extreme...mentioned a lot of types of people who should be executed under his system (including a lazy son who won't work for a living!). God may have indeed given him the Ten Commandments on Mt. Sinai, but by the time we get to the end of The Torah, Moses has presented us with 613 commandments!

Wow, that's a lot of trips up to the top of the mountain!

So if you believe that the two verses about same-sex relationships should be observed and obeyed, what about these other things that Moses said in Leviticus? If you're going to play the Leviticus card, you have to play the whole hand with commandments like this:

Don't let cattle graze with other kinds of  cattle (Leviticus 19:19)

Don't have a variety of crops on the same field. (Leviticus 19:19)

Don't wear clothes made of more than one fabric (Leviticus 19:19)

Don't cut your hair nor shave. (Leviticus 19:27)

Any person who curses his mother or father, must be killed. (Leviticus 20:9)

If a man cheats on his wife, or vise versa, both the man and the woman must die. (Leviticus 20:10)

If a man sleeps with his father's wife... both him and his father's wife are to be put to death. (Leviticus 20:11)

If a man sleeps with his wife and her mother they are all to be burnt to death. (Leviticus 20:14)

If a man or woman has sex with an animal, both human and animal must be killed. (Leviticus 20:15-16).

If a man has sex with a woman on her period, they are both to be "cut off from their people" (Leviticus 20:18)

Psychics, wizards, clairvoyants, and so on are to be stoned to death. (Leviticus 20:27)

If a priest's daughter is a whore, she is to be burnt at the stake. (Leviticus 21:9)

People who have flat noses, or are blind or lame, cannot go to an altar of God (Leviticus 21:17-18)

Anyone who curses or blasphemes God, should be stoned to death by the community. (Leviticus 24:14-16)

And my personal favorite...anyone who fails to tithe on their produce/income must get caught up on it and be charged a 20% penalty (Leviticus 27:30, 31)...wow, if people still practiced that I wouldn't have any financial challenges with my church!

Makes you wonder why there are so many people wanting to site Leviticus for gay bashing, but they never mention these other rules.

How strange.

It's common that a fundamentalist "Christian" will generally blow off these old precepts with something like, "Jesus came to change (fulfill) the Law(s), so these are obsolete and outmoded, and we don't need them"...I find that they are adamant about that law thing when it comes to the subject of the tithe penalty (!)...but throughout Leviticus, God states that these laws are to be followed forever.

Most people with some Bible knowledge are at least vaguely familiar with The Ten Commandments listed in Exodus (although I find very few people, even among fundamentalists, who can actually quote them). But there are also often-overlooked rules in Deuteronomy which nobody ever seems to mention, at least not to me, such as:

Anyone who dreams or prophesies anything that is against God, or anyone who tries to turn you from God, is to be put to death. (Deuteronomy 13:5)

If anyone, even your own family suggests worshipping another God, kill them. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)

If you find out a city worships a different god, destroy the city and kill all of it's inhabitants... even the animals. (Deuteronomy 13:12-15)

Kill anyone with a different religion. (Deuteronomy 17:2-7)

And another of my personal favorites, which I already mentioned (Deuteronomy 21:18-21)...if you have a son who is stubborn and won't obey his parents...even if your only issue with him is that he eats all the groceries in the house and drinks some...you are to take him to the elders of the city and tell them that he's a lazy glutton and have them stone him with stones until he is dead!

Wow...that's some serious disciplinary action for grown kids who still live at home with their parents.

OK, OK...enough...I could add more, but you get the point...reading the Laws of Moses gets oppressive pretty fast, so let's move on.

Makes you hungry to hear some GOOD NEWS.

You may ask, if so many things in the Bible are so clearly irrelevant to life in our modern world, why believe any of it at all?

Because there's hidden treasure in these books, and if you know how to rightly divide them, you can find a whole lot of GOOD NEWS within their pages!

Really!

Paul wrote to the Romans and said that the purpose of the Law was that it was to implode...to self-destruct, as it were, so that it could ultimately show us how wonderful Christ is...

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful humanity to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in human flesh...(Romans 8:3 - TNIV)

See? I told you this was still about GOOD NEWS!

But just remember...don't play the Leviticus card because you might end up getting stoned, just like the rest of us.

Regardless of what Moses said or what the Law said or what Moses said through the Law, God is real and God is love.

Amazing isn't it?

Nearly sounds like the Bible is sending us mixed messages, but at the end of the day it really isn't.

It's still all about the GOOD NEWS!

3 comments:

Avatar said...

"Makes you hungry to hear some GOOD NEWS." ...indeed!

Erik said...

I always thought 'stoned' had an entirely different meaning. Are you sure it deals with actual stones?

When read like that it is not 'Good News' at all.

When read with the more conventional meaning, using herbs or brews, it makes sense.

Context.

Anonymous said...

Good News, yes. - Karl Cobos