Thursday, May 3, 2012

About the whole Bible-and-the-gays thing

No doubt you've heard about the whole brouhaha surrounding Dan Savage's comments on the Bible. Of course, he's just saying what other people have pointed out before, like here, for instance. But this time it's shocking and inappropriate. Notice that nobody has said it's not true. Because it is true. Read the Bible and you will in fact find all kinds of anti-shellfish, anti-cutting your hair in the wrong way, anti- menstruating women, anti-women wearing pants, anti-pork, pro-slavery dictates. Of course these are mostly in the Old Testament. As far as I know, Jesus only identifies one abomination: the love of money. Now there's some food for thought...

But that's not what this post is about. I was thinking about the whole topic of Biblical stances against homosexuality earlier today, which got me thinking about Lot. You know, Abraham's nephew. I remember hearing the story of Lot and his family as a kid. In my church it went something like this:

Lot and his wife and daughters lived in Sodom and Gomorrah (I guess they lived in 2 towns??), which were very wicked (and not in the good way), so God was going to destroy them. At Abraham's request, God sent two angels, cleverly disguised as men, to warn Lot and his family. When they came to town all the wicked Sodomites and Gomorrahites  pursued them, but Lot took the visitors to his home and then defended them against the mob at his door who wanted to sex them up. In the process of defending the angels against the mob (brace yourselves), Lot offered his daughters, whom he claimed were virgins, and told the mob that they could do anything they wanted to his daughters as long as they left the two visitors (whom he did not know were angels, mind you) untouched. 

-I'm not making this up, you guys, it's right here-

So anyway, the angels manage to handle the crowd without handing over the two virgins (who later conceive children with their passed-out-drunk father) to the ravaging crowd and escort the family to safety while Sodom and Gomorrah are destroyed with fire and brimstone. Except for Lot's wife, who violated the angels' command by turning around and looking back at the destruction, so she was turned into a pillar of salt.

Things that struck me about this story as a child:
  1. What is brimstone, anyway?
  2. Why salt?
  3. Why doesn't anyone notice or comment on the horrifying way in which Lot casually offers his daughters up to the crowd in place of these total strangers he just met?!?
  4. How is it that Lot's daughters (or anyone in that town) were still virgins to begin with?
Of course the contextual view of this story within my childhood religious environment is pretty important here. The conventional wisdom concerning Sodom and Gomorrah was that they were evil because of all the rampant homosexuality. And I think this is still a very common view in conservative religious circles. The fact that the townspeople were violent and predatory, which is what strikes me now, doesn't factor in to this view. That's not what God hated - it was the fact that they wanted the men rather than the women (it seems like maybe they were just super-opportunistic when it came to sex and would have gone after either option...). The point is, they were wicked because of all the homosexuality.  Which is ironically contrasted with the coercive, incestuous behavior in the following chapter that appears to have gone unpunished.

So somehow Lot appears to retain his "righteous" status in spite of offering his daughters up for gang rape. On top of it, there's a little moral of the story thrown in about strict and absolute obedience, illustrated by the punishment of Lot's wife, which seems a bit extreme for a relatively minor infraction, but OK. It's all very confusing, given the fact that we're also told that God is loving and merciful.

But the larger point is... no doubt the Bible does say some pretty harsh things about homosexuality (and shellfish, and pork, and haircuts, and menstruation, and women wearing pants). But it also has passages in which it appears to be perfectly acceptable to offer your daughters up to a gang of frothy-mouthed rapists, so why exactly are we expecting a literal interpretation of the Old Testament to yield any kind of a foundation on which we can ground a modern society? The fact is, Christians are already picking and choosing which scriptures to follow and which to disregard. My understanding of the process is that 1) we're in new covenant (New Testament)  times now, so scriptures about shellfish being an abomination no longer apply, and 2) a thoughtful Christian will think about God's nature and the spirit of the law behind the Bible and the contextual factors behind specific scriptural dictates, and will try to apply them to our social and historical context as effectively as possible. This means at times you will not follow specific scriptures to the letter (after all, nobody's out there sacrificing goats in the city square anymore) because they were intended for a different time and place.

But maybe that's just me. And I'm a backslider and a black sheep, so what do I know about Lot and his daughters?

21 comments:

  1. Anonymous5/03/2012

    Yeah this story always made me uncomfortable too... how can they use this to denounce gay people? Its about how raping genderless angels is wrong... and also demonstrates how little the patriarchs in the bible care for their daughters... later in the story lots wife is turned to a pillar of salt and so he takes his daughters for wives (yuck) I think Dan was right to address the bible's love of slavery too.

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  2. DianeD5/04/2012

    But I think they were objecting to him calling anything in the Bible bullsh*t, so it's a nonstarter for a real discussion to begin with. although I agree that the a Lot story is creepy and we handle it in a strange and inappropriate way.

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  3. I seem to remember the S&G crowd as being sort of omnisexual in my church. As far as Lot's daughters, offering them up to the crwd was the lesser of two evils, to avoid the man-man sex, you know.

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  4. Anonymous5/04/2012

    The point is, Savage is not a Christian, so he has no right to tell Christians how to interpret the Bible or live their lives.

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    1. Stacia5/04/2012

      So then, why do Christians have a right to tell non-Christians how to live their
      Ives?

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    2. I think that touches on the crux of the matter. I think most Christians would say that America is a "Christian nation," and therefore their worldview should rightfully be dominant for anyone living here - whether or not they're Christians. So there is an asymetrical relationship, but they would argue that it's justified.

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    3. And I would add that we have to be careful to not paint "Christians" with too wide of a brush. There is, after all, a great deal of variation within the group. Many Christians emphasize the loving and compassionate aspect of the religion rather than the hellfire and damnation side of things, and they would never bully someone because they're gay. In my view they're the ones who get it right (new covenenant and all that), but they're a less visible crowd.

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  5. diamondsforhorses5/04/2012

    I've never heard that before about the love of money being the only abomination mentioned by Jesus. That really is something to pursue further.

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    1. I know, right? It merits it's own post, really.

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  6. liberryLady5/05/2012

    From what I remember the only time Jesus resorted to physical force was when he drove some kind of merchants out of the temple. They were exploiting the people who came to worship there in some way. That, combined with his only statement about abominations seems to make a pretty strong statement.

    Hint: you should write a post about Christianity and Capitalism. We'll wait for it. We're patient.

    Love

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    1. Anonymous5/06/2012

      That's a great idea since Rachel has such a well developed and deep understanding of how capitalism actually works. Somehow she magically acquired that wisdom by hanging out in academia all of these years looking for the right ass to kiss to get on a tenure track. I mean it totally makes sense to ask a Marxist to speak authoritatively and without bias on both Capitalism and Christianity. That reminds me, I need to get some dental work done...I call my auto mechanic tomorrow.

      By they way Savage has a well earned reputation of being a total asshole, the gay / religion thingy being just one of the subjects he manages toss his BS around on.

      Rachel - You and your buddy Savage should really walk away from the cherry picking of "facts" to support an "argument" rant, given both of your well documented history of doing exactly that to support your positions.

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    2. Oh, so does being critical of capitalism make you a marxist now? I hadn't heard.

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    3. Libbyz5/07/2012

      Wow Anonymous, that's a really great argument! You really support your claim that Rachel has no understanding of how capitalism works by backing it up with information that would indicate that this is true.

      I also like the way you call Dan Savage's argument BS and then proceed to explain exactly why it's false with logical, well rounded statements (like putting the word facts in quotation marks without offering any evidence that Dan Savage's bible quotations and statements do not constitute facts).

      I agree that with you that "argument rants" are wrong. Arguments should always be supported with logical, scientific reasoning instead of being filled with irrelevant personal attacks and claims with no base - except oh wait that's exactly what you did in nearly every sentence of your comment.

      Sarcasm aside, people like you give me extra reason to be happy when gay marriage is legalized in a new state or country. You're on the side of this battle that will inevitably lose and disappear entirely with time, and you know it.

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  7. Anonymous5/07/2012

    I guess you missed it, Rachel and Karl are buddies from way back. Evidently you haven't been reading her blog long enough or your understanding of gender feminism and it's relationship to Marxism isn't as well developed as it could be.

    I'm sure she'd be happy to pull up her archive and repost some of her prior Marxism missives. As I recall at least one even came with a picture. It was great.

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    1. Chareen5/07/2012

      Yet another ad hominem ... And this from a guy who learned everything he knows about feminism from Sommers. So rich.

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  8. On the "cherry picking" comment...

    I guess I'm not sure how listing the many things that are named as abominations in the Bible and then pointing out that same-gender sexual relations is merely one of them counts as cherry picking. As a matter of fact, I know the Bible quite well, having grown up in a fundamentalist church that believed in studying the scriptures closely, thoroughly, and daily. And when I discuss the stories and commandments from the Bible, I try to do so in context.

    It seems to me that the socially conservative crowd who sieze upon one of these old testament scriptures and use it to justify the bullying of gay kids (which I'm afraid is not one of the things Jesus would do) are the ones who are cherry picking. In fact, that's one of the main points of this discussion.

    If you believe, based on OT scriptures, that gay sexual relations are an abomination then why aren't you also abstaining from shellfish and bacon and haircuts and sex with your wife for most of the month, since her period renders her unclean? And why aren't you putting gay couples to death, since this is what the scriptures in question call for? That is cherry picking. Looking at different stories from the Bible in context, and reflecting on the worldview they represent, is not.

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    1. Anonymous5/16/2012

      Most everyone has had their turn "in the barrel" relative to having to study the Bible at some stage of their lives. You aren't unique or special. The fact that you've studied it doesn't mean you aren't cherry picking your facts to justify your argument. As you should know and history proves anything can be and has been justified by quoting various religious texts, pro and con. That shit isn't hard to do.

      The LGBT effort to normalize the gay thing through the media, public schools and government is well documented. Children being encouraged to "come out" in elementary school and using that as a pretext to claim bullying is a pretty nifty strategy. Let's not talk about the fact that few if any elementary school kids have a clue about their sexuality, but coaching them with shit like this will certainly push them in a direction. We'll worry about their mental health later, for now they're just collateral damage for morons like Savage and Useful Idiots like you and your friends here.

      As someone who is at least theoretically an educator you should also consider the fact that people with reasonable values won't leave their kids in the public schools if this type of shit is allowed to go on. So then you'll have the ghettoization of more public schools. Might even reach Wyoming by the time your girls are ready for school. Hmmm, could be a problem.

      Here's a business idea for you. Find another educator friend, preferably one with non-marxist and non-LGBT values and start yourself a Charter School. You'll have to be the administrator because the parents can hear all about your values in a regular public school. So you'll either have to shut up or fake it. Then you can make some real money and join the rest of us that do real work, add real value and pay real taxes. You can send me a consulting fee after you get it launched and start making money.

      In any case I frankly don't give a shit what the old or new testaments say about homosexuality. The fact there are some idiot Christians quoting the old testament or whatever doesn't somehow justify the LGBT crew and their collective disgusting approach to life and society. As you well know, vilifying Christianity and the traditional family are standard Marxist strategies. Nothing new here.

      Most people that are capable of observing what the collective worldviews of the LGBT Crew and feminist freaks like you are fully able to reach the conclusion that nothing of lasting value to society has or will come of it. Don't need to use Christian values to reach that conclusion. Just gotta open your eyes and process some information objectively.

      Now that Obama has come out for gay marriage it's gonna be game on between you losers and the organized religion. Good Luck with that.

      You really ought to grow a pair and put up my posts. At least pretend you're that brave, fearless feminist type chick you want your crew to think you are.

      Final second pass. You should really quit feeling sorry for yourself and step up. That's the problem with Feminists, they can't take the truth.

      ********

      I wanted to let you know how pleased I was to see that the U of WY Philosophy Dept decided to christen a chick as department head. Imagine my surprise when it wasn't you, instead they installed Jabba the Hutt's more portly sister in the position. I tried to watch the video on the web site but couldn't take more than a few minutes. That said, now I appreciate the fact that you drifted off into the business department. Based upon her girth she literally could have had you for lunch.

      It does make me wonder at some level about this "feminist sisterhood" meme floating around though. Seems she could have found a few lectures for you to hold forth on the injustices of the patriarchy. Instead you're hanging out in Marketing. Go figure. Fortunately you can still vent to your daughters. That should work out well.

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  9. Anonymous5/17/2012

    Let's start with Sodom and Gomorrah, it's sort of like Minneapolis and St Paul. I remember as a kid that I thought it was kinda cool that he offered the kids up but I was 5 when I heard it. I thought it was the upstanding thing to do and then well, I was 5.
    I had a great priest when I converted to Catholicism and we had great conversation. One was about this right here. He indicated that it wasn't about homosexuality but it was about how they disregarded one another. His point was homosexuality is not bad, but how greedy (the love of money (power)) they were and how they spurned the rights of others. When they came to get the angels (I think Lot had an inkling)it wasn't about homosexuality, it was how dare you lot keep the new guys (or women) to yourself.
    Debauchery was the key, not homosexuality. Debauchery is what God was upset about not homosexuality. It was the times which lead to this not homosexuality. It had to do with the idea of power, I'm not only powerful enough to have sex with women, I can have sex with whomever I want.
    We had a discussion about the daughters as well and like I said I thought to be gracious to give up of his family rather than the angels and then the priest, we called him Father Feet, he wore sandals, played tennis and brought a Christmas tree to mass on day in July, saying we should have Christmas all the time. I digress--He indicated if Lot was so damn brave he should have offered up himself.
    The key about these depraved people was they didn't care if it was man or woman but the virgin thing was probably why they didn't want Lot.
    Lot the man of God, was going to sacrifice his daughters, I'm sure the angels weren't in for that. So Lot being the upstart man that he was decided to leave. I remember watching Stewart Granger play Lot and I thought the visual effects were pretty cool in the movie.
    But these verses are as I have come to believe, rape, sexual abuse is not about sex, it is about power and the ability to control, the flaunting in front of God and others, than I am more powerful than you.
    It's not about homosexuality, it's about, I'm Godlike and you are not. God likes me more than he does you.
    But God loves us all, equally.
    Forget the abomination stuff, it is old fashioned and I pay way more attention to Jesus, who is much more gracious than Lot and Abraham and certainly more versed in righteousness than even St. Paul.
    What does Christ say about homosexuality, I've search even on my computer for lying with a man, homosexual and such and can't find anything.
    However, even if it is considered a sin, I don't think it is, but even if it is as, like the woman at the well and the one who is going to be stoned (did you ever notice, he uses woman as examples and they follow him), he says go and sin no more. If you believe what he is saying, no matter what you do, because we will commit some type of indiscretion we are forgiven.
    My problem with Paul is he spends more time connecting the law of the Old Testament with what Jesus was supposed to do. Also, Paul wrote his letter before the Gospels were written and if he was so important then why didn't Mark, Matthew, Luke and John run their versions past him
    Lots of questions but I agree, where the hell does the story of Lot have anything to do with homosexuality, it doesn't. It has to do with the slap in the face of God, we can do anything. He didn't send the Angels because they were having carnal knowledge with the same gender, it is because they flaunted and even sex with children and women.

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  10. Anonymous8/01/2012

    What if certain passages in the bible are, like, porn that accidentally made it in?

    ~thiskissbelongstome

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