Thursday, April 13

Why is this night different from other nights?

I originally began this as a short comment on someone else’s blog but decided to make it a more expanded post of its own because this stuff has been on my mind since Tuesday night when I broke down and watched some of The Ten Commandments on ABC. I didn’t watch the first part on Monday night. Part II, which picked up the story after the Israelites are out of Egypt and are camped out in the Sinai, struck me as incredibly violent. After consulting my Bible, however, I was reminded just how violent the Exodus story is.

Yeah, I have a Bible. I read it sometimes. So there I was last night, in front of the TV with my Bible open on my lap. I was trying to figure out when Moses ditched Zipporah, because that part of the narrative was featured in the TV adaptation. As I simultaneously watched and read, I found myself more and more disturbed by the story that was unfolding before me.

It’s not that I hate the Judeo-Christian tradition or the Bible. I just happen to be very critical of both. I see the Bible as an ancient text that is more a record of humanity’s quest for God than of God’s revelation to man. Perhaps it is a mixture of the two. But whatever it is, it is an imperfect document in that man’s quest for God is imperfect. Moreover, that quest can get confused and pretty ugly at times, and the Bible records that confusion and ugliness. The Bible is as much a record of man’s errors in his search for God as it is a record of the wonderful epiphanies that sometimes occur in man’s search for God. As a result, I find the Bible simultaneously inspiring and repulsive.

One example of this is the Exodus story. The story begins as a wonderful act of liberation and ends as a terrible tale of conquest, intolerance, and cultural imperialism. Go into the land, assert your claim as the only legitimate claim to the exclusion of all others, and kill all the inhabitants because they worship other gods. Today we would call that state-sponsored terrorism and attribute such views to the likes of Al Qaeda.

Equally repulsive are the strictures against homosexuality, at least one of which is connected to the Exodus story (Leviticus 18:22) in that the Biblical tradition places it within the corpus of laws given to Moses on Sinai following the Israelite exodus from Egypt. The “You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination” is part of the pure vs. impure, “us vs. them” mentality that so often accompanies humankind’s quest for the divine. Admittedly, that’s an oversimplification in that the passages condemning homosexual practices have much to do with violations of prescribed gender roles, the importance of ethnic survival (i.e. of the Israelites), and notions of cultural superiority.

However, I would like to point out that I do not feel the need to pretend that the Bible doesn’t really condemn homosexual practices. It does. I am not a revisionist in that respect. In other words, I am not one of those people who feels the need to come up with an alternative explanation, because s/he believes that if the Bible really did condemn homosexual practices, s/he’d be, well, screwed. Many queer (and queer-friendly) Christians fall into this category. I do not.

Because I myself do not consider the Bible as possessing divine authority or assign it any special normative status, I am comfortable with the its condemnation of what I do in the bedroom. Likewise, I am free to offer a critique of passages like the conquest of Canaan and those condemning homosexuality. To me, they represent perfect examples of the inhumanity to which humans often stoop in their quest for the divine. The Bible records these instances, and we must learn from them. We can’t do that if we try to explain them away. We need to embrace that ugliness for what it is.

At the same time, there is a lot in the Bible to commend it. Certainly, Jesus was inspired by the social justice teachings of the Prophets. The Bible has lots to say about the equitable treatment of the poor and the less fortunate. It is unequivocal in its condemnation of those who oppress the poor, the weak, the widow, the orphan, and the alien. This is the Bible to which I look for inspiration. And this is the Bible that the Religious Right would do well to heed.


Blogger Lito said...

Biblical stories often give me a lot of inspiration in life. The Holy Bible is just a book worth reading for all through life.

2:27 AM  
Blogger Brad said...

Dean here is a link I happened across as I was doing some reading on the newly restored Gospel Of Judas you might find interesting. I can't wait to see the results of this myself!

10:01 PM  
Blogger Will said...

I have a major problem with the way Leviticus is "interpreted" by the Religious Right. There are a large number of dos and don'ts in Leviticus, almost all of which are ignored by the preachers. Things like marry a divorced woman and you should be stoned to death, for example.

But the one item about homosexuality--that one they hold sacred and it must be obeyed. I don't get it--if it's the word of the Lord, shouldn't ALL the words of the Lord be obeyed, not just the one they arbitrarily decide to enforce?

10:29 PM  
Blogger Brad said...

I posted Part 3 and the FINAL part on my thoughts on this topic on my blog tonight

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd like to hear more about what you think the Bible does condemn about homosexuality, because I don't think it condemns an entire group of people who are gay and lesbian. I think it condemns prostitution and idolatry. But the same sex practices of that age aren't anything close to what homosexual love and relationship can be like today.
Check out Temple Gray's book, Gay Unions. He speaks of what sexuality was like in the ancient world. Nothing like what we have today in the heterosexual or homosexual sense of what is possible now. FHT

8:42 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 License.