Thursday, December 18, 2008
1. I don't know that it is clear at all. Sure, a cursory glance at the passage sounds like it's talking about gay behavior in general, but what use is a cursory glance?
I could go on quite a bit about why I don't think this is clear AT ALL, but let me set that aside for the moment. I'd like to set aside the arguments about what "man lies with man" even means for a minute and presume the traditionalists are correct on this point.
What of it?
2. Let's assume that this passage IS talking homosexuality in general (and that is a huge assumption). What do we do with it then?
a. We need to understand that the entire OT argument against homosexuality is based on two Leviticus verses: "Men should not lay with men" and "Men should not lay with men - if they do, you should kill them." Beyond these two passages, the only other times homosexual behavior even seems to come up are in passages related to rape and prostitution - actions that most of us agree are wrong.
b. So, let's look at that second passage: Men should not lie with men - if they do, they should be killed. From God's pen to our eyes, right? So tell me, WHY is it okay to ignore the second half of that passage? Why do we not think today that it is okay to kill men who lie with men (whatever that means)?
Has God changed? Did God say at some later point in the Bible say, "You know, where I said you ought to kill gay men, perhaps I was being too harsh. I feel bad, now. You know what? Let's NOT kill gay guys, let's just spank them or something..."?
Do you get what I'm saying? WHY is the first half of that passage accepted by some as a universal truth (that they apply to homosexuality in general) BUT the second half of the passage is NOT a universal truth? Says who?
c. The answer is: Says us. All of us. We all agree that it is a horrible WRONG to kill gay people. Not even the most conservative folk (setting aside the nuts out there) think that the second half of that passage ought to be taken literally.
d. So, WHY do we think that passage is not a universal truth? Did God at some point later in the Bible change God's mind? No. Never in the Bible does God say that the rules have changed.
We think that the second half of that passage is not universal simply because it is self-evident. We KNOW that killing gay folk is a crime and horribly wrong. A sin of the worst sort. I don't know of anyone who would disagree with me on this point.
e. And so, it seems to me that the main difference between more conservative "biblical literalists" and more progressive fans of the Bible is that the progressive ones are more than willing to admit that we use our God-given reason and inate morality (God's Law written on our hearts, the bible says) to decide issues and discern good and evil. The more literalistic types, however, are loathe to admit such.
The more conservative answer on this question would probably be more along the lines of simply: "Those punishments were SPECIFIC to the Israel gov't at that time, but the crime indicates a UNIVERSAL problem with homosexuality."
And if you ask them, "Why do you think this? What biblical reasons do you have to back up this assertion?," they have no answer other than (usually), "Well, it's obvious to even morons that this is how it is to be interpreted!!" Or, in other words, because it seems logical, it makes sense to them.
f. And I agree. It IS obvious that we aren't to kill gay folk. Either that was somehow addressing a specific offense at a specific time or people were expressing their own cultural disgust at an unfamiliar behavior (one that they've heard that the "pagans" did in other lands) or whatever reason we want to guess at as to why that law was there, but clearly it is not a universal law that we ought to kill gay folk.
g. And a further difference between the more literalist and the more progressive Christians is that the more progressive are willing to say, "Well, if the SECOND half of that passage was somehow a specific rule for a specific time and place, who are we to say that the FIRST half of the passage is not ALSO talking about a specific offense at a specific time and place? Our God-given reasoning endorses such an interpretation, JUST AS our God-given reason endorses that reasoning for the second half of the passage.
We do this all the time, when we read the Bible. Not every verse that smacks of being NOT of God has some explanation as to its meaning and application. When we read that "God says" to kill disrespectful children or that when we invade a country, we are to kill everyone - including the children and babes, BUT to save the virgin girls so we can make them our wives - when we read passages like that, we don't need a Bible verse to straighten that out for us. CLEARLY, our God-given sense of logic and morality shouts out that such behavior is atrocious and wrong.
The difference between the more conservative and the more progressive Christians is that the more progressive Christians are okay with acknowledging this. Seems to me.
Regardless, just because there are two verses in the Bible that says "men should not lay with men," does not mean that the flat wooden literal interpretation of those lines ought necessarily be taken literally, any more than the line that follows ("if they do, kill 'em"I).