Misreading Incomprehension

Someone recently bought this fascinating piece to my attention:

Commentary: ‘Be careful using the Bible’

Having read it, I am of the impression that a better title might be “I misunderstood the bible. therefore it can’t be trusted“. As is so often the case with opinion pieces, there was no provision for commentary, so I will add my commentary here…

The Bible continues to be used to oppose women’s work outside the home and female ordination.

And modern feminism pushes those aims as praiseworthy. Choose this day whom you will serve. There is absolutely nothing wrong with women working outside the home, but in a traditional marriage with children, children need their mothers most in the first few years, which means that a working woman who also wants to be a mother has some hard choices to make. For many women, the experience of holding their newborn simplifies that choice. If a woman chooses to hand her children off to someone else and go to work, good luck to her, but there are an awful lot of working mothers out there who wish that they didn’t have to.

As far as female ordination is concerned, I have seen female preachers who obviously have an anointing on them. What I object to is when women are placed in a position of authority over men. “Women are grown, men are made“; and a woman, no matter how well-meaning, cannot teach a man how to be a man. Doubly so for feminists,who want to “reconstruct” men according to their whim — which usually results in weak, “nice” feminized men, with whom that few women want to pair-bond.

In studying the Bible, it is necessary to realize that often God is cited as supporting whatever values are normative at that time in history. Those are “timely” standards — standards valued for a time — but not necessarily “timeless” standards that are applicable for all time and all circumstances.

It is true that much of the bible’s teaching is cultural. while much is sacred. The danger is that we may use our opinions and feelings — or worse, the culture — to decide which is which.

Remember that the Bible affirms Abraham having sexual relations with Hagar, Sarah’s maid, in order to produce his first son, Ishmael

The bible does no such thing. it *informed* us of the event. It also makes it clear that this was Sarah’s idea, not God’s — and her impatience resulted in the Middle East becoming the charnel-house it is today.

Remember King Solomon’s legendary 1,000 wives and concubines. Today we would call Abraham’s and Solomon’s sexual actions adultery, and not condone such actions for the behavior of others.

Once again, the learned Reverend is letting his feelings get in the way. The bible does not glorify Solomon’s myriad wives, it simply informs. Many of those marriages were political alliances — David’s first wife, Michal, was Saul’s daughter. Many others would have been gifts from other kings and chieftains. And Solomon himself owes his existence to one of the most infamous adulteries in recorded history. The bible warns repeatedly against intermarrying with foreign women. Also remember that in those days, there was a chronic man shortage – men died working or fighting, and women who lost their husbands were often left destitute. This is why a younger brother was required by law to marry his older brother’s childless widow and give her children so that she would have a future — conduct that would be considered unacceptable today.

Remember that, in ancient Israel, eating shellfish and wearing clothing of two different fabrics at the same time were called “abominations.” Walking too many paces on the Sabbath was considered sinful. And, it was permissible to make slaves of captured enemies. So much of what was considered sinful or acceptable was simply the norms or standards that were practiced by the majority of the people, but condemned today.

There were reasons for those practices. The bible calls eating pork “unclean”. Today, we call it “trichinosis”. Whatever you choose to call it, it wasn’t good for you.

Sadly, that practice has not changed. As a child, I was not allowed to have playing cards in our house. Dancing and even going to the movies were frowned upon, and drinking alcoholic beverages was not allowed. I was told that Jesus and his disciples drank only grape juice!

And millions of parents tell their children about Santa. So you were misled. How sad. And now you are returning the favor by mis-leading us?

That brings us to a question sharply dividing the Christian community in our time: How are we to think about and act toward the LGBTQ community? We know that the majority of Americans do not oppose homosexual relations, yet others believe that while every person is a child of God, homosexual behavior is a choice and is sinful, and marriage is only to be affirmed when between a man and a woman. A key question for me is: Is that position simply an expression of ancient and current cultural norms, or is that the timeless moral position, sanctioned by God?

Ah… now we get to the meat of the matter. I was wondering how long it would be before homosexuality reared its head. One of my favorite verses in the bible is “everything is permissible, but not everything is beneficial”, so let’s start with that.

Likewise, most scientists and psychologists of today believe that same-gender orientation is not a matter of choice.

Science isn’t about what you “believe”, it is what you can prove. Science based on “belief” — consensus — looks a lot like religion. In related news, And psychologists are currently trying to convince us that masculinity is a disease. So I would not place much stock in what “scientists and psychologists believe”.

Let’s go a bit deeper into the issue of morality. How do we distinguish between values that are “timely” — those that are affirmed as norms by the majority of people at one time in history, but are changed or updated in another generation because of new understandings, and the values that are “timeless” and applicable in all situations and at all times in history? What is an eternal value? Here is where the Bible, taken as a whole and seen in its depths, can guide us.

What you do is read the text with an open mind. What you don’t do is go running to your feelings and feminist doctrine in search of a solution.

Why oppose slavery and segregation? Because they are hurtful. Why do the Ten Commandments forbid murder, stealing, lying, adultery and coveting? Because they are hurtful. On the other hand, what is hurtful about playing cards, dancing or having a glass of wine with a meal?

Tell that to someone who has had to live with the consequences of gambling and alcoholism. The bible also says “do not do anything that causes your brother to stumble.”. Oh, and you just proved my previous point. The difference between what is sacred and what is cultural is often obvious. The real problem comes when you run into something you don’t like, which is what we are seeing here.

If a person is born with a same-gender orientation, why must they be prohibited from having an intimate relationship with another person, forced into isolation and loneliness, just because many people unfairly oppose that? The fact that some Christians do not approve does not make such a relationship hurtful.

“Born with”? I call shenanigans. A predisposition towards homosexual behavior cannot, by definition, be biologically derived, since reproduction only happens as a result of a heterosexual coupling. A small number of people are born with hormonal imbalances that may predispose them to same-sex attraction, but they are rare, anomalous, and worthy of special treatment. What we should not be doing is allowing a tiny minority of edge-cases to forcibly steer the culture. In my opinion, the vast majority are created behaviorally.

Why not have the same moral standards for same-gender relationships as for heterosexual relationships: no promiscuity, no coercion, no insensitivity. Instead, seek commitment, faithfulness, mutual sensitivity, caring and support. Who does that hurt? Instead, it treats all people as persons of equal worth, as children of God, and encouraged to enjoy mutually affirming, intimate, helpful relationships with others.

No reasonable person believes that God hates gays. But there is no evidence that he made them. However, it must be said that there is nowhere in the bible where homosexuality is affirmed or seen as morally praiseworthy (unlike, for instance, prostitution), or is described as anything less than a sin, If you choose to live that life, that’s your choice. I am not mad with you, but you don’t answer to me.

To “love your neighbor” is to do the helpful thing and to avoid doing the hurtful thing, even when cultural conditioning makes that uncomfortable. Helping, not hurting, looks and sounds like Jesus to me.

Be careful when you put words into the mouth of Jesus, who said such feel-good gems as “God made male and female… therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife” (Matthew 19:4). The same Jesus who said “Let the dead bury their dead” and “You will always have the poor“, and ran the officially licensed traders out of t he temple with a whip. . does that sound like “fluffy hippie boyfriend Jesus” to you?

Bottom line: There is a big difference between tolerance and affirmation; telling people that God loves them is praiseworthy. Telling people that God approves of something without any supporting evidence may not be “helping” them.

Advertisements
Post a comment or leave a trackback: Trackback URL.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: