Monday, May 16, 2005

Some faith-based values

So on Sunday a priest in St. Paul, Minnesota, denied the eucharist to about a hundred people wearing rainbow sashes. You wonder what's going on in this man's head. I am afraid it may be something Biblical.

If we are going to have faith-based values, derived specifically from scripture, let us be well aware of what the scriptures actually say. Historically, the Church has considered the Bible inerrant. Catholics, until recently at least, have been less literal in their understanding of the errorless words than fundamentalist protestants, but that may be changing. And a combination of literalism and the notion of inerrancy is worrisome, as we see below.

It is indeed true that the Bible condemns homosexuality, but it specifies that the penalty for it is not the denial of communion, but rather--execution. Are we ready for that? Not yet, anyway. I am happy to note that a slight plurality of Americans support civil unions, but unhappy to note that about half of all Americans oppose gay marriage. At present--and I am just guessing here--not very many of those who oppose gay marriage would actually spring for the penalty specified in Leviticus. Let us hope not.

Just to put such faith-based views of homosexuality in some kind of perspective, let's look at what a few other death-penalty offenses in Leviticus, and other books of the Bible, are.

If you curse your parents, the penalty is death. (Ex. 21:17) Indeed, if you are a rebellious and stubborn and disobedient son, and perhaps a glutton or a drunkard, you are to be taken out of the city and stoned to death. (Deut. 21:18-21) Likewise, if you hit your father or mother. (Ex 21:15) These passages might be a little too close to home for mano a mano Dubya. You'd think he of all people wouldn't have that much enthusiasm for scripture-based law. But maybe being born again changes that.

Bestiality is forbidden. Neal Horsely, it seems, would have to be put to death, along with the mule. Lev. 20:15). In a rare Biblical display of sexual equality, the same penalty is specified for a woman who does it with a mule. Plus in both cases the mule gets it. (Lev 20:16)

If you mow your lawn on the sabbath, you shall be put to death. (Ex 31:14-15) Specifically, stoned to death (Num 15:35)

If you are female, and lose your virginity before marriage, you must be stoned to death (Deut 22:21-24)

If you ignore the commands of a priest or a judge, you are to be put to death. (Deut 17:12). So those rainbow sashes could get you in more trouble than mere denial of communion.

If you sleep with your neighbor's wife, both you and your neighbor's wife shall surely be put to death. (Lev 20:10)

If you blaspheme the name of the Lord, whether you are a member of the congregation or a stranger, you shall be put to death.

You must kill the missionaries of other religions. (Deut 13:6-10) If you go and serve other gods yourself, you must be put to death. (Deut 17:2-5)

You will not allow a witch to live. (Ex 22:18) If you visit a fortune teller you are to be put to death. (Lev 20:6)

This is just the short list.

It's easy to make fun of stuff like this, but it's also sobering to realize that a large number of values-based Americanists claim, and probably believe, that their values are Biblical. I don't think that they are, in reality. That is, the homophobia of most Americans is not directly rooted in scripture. But on the other hand, a bunch of them will selectively refer to scripture to justify their homophobia. I don't know if it does any good to point this other material out to them.

Oh, gosh. Now that I think about trying to reason with a homophobe in this way, before you know it, the old imagination steps up to the plate and provides me with the unwanted image of the homophobe and his family and friends responding to reason by gathering up stones to march down the street, an angry scriptural mob, toward an unsuspecting guy on his riding lawn mower.

OK, so reasoning with believers--at least in this way--might backfire. I just wish I knew what the right tactic might be.

Finally, here's a little bit of blasphemy, for which in other times and places I would be put to death.

Jesus is sitting sitting on the ground minding his own business, as he was wont to do, and suddenly an agitated crowd carrying rocks comes surging around the corner and pushes a woman up to the front. The leader of the mob says to Jesus, "Rabbi, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act, and the Law says to stone her to death. What do you say?" Jesus, draws in the dirt with a stick for a while, and then says "Let whoever of you is without sin cast the first stone." Silence. The people in the crowd look at each other, uneasily. Convicted by their own conscience, one by one the members of the mob drop their stones. The crowd melts away. Jesus says to the woman, "Go, and sin no more." Just as she is leaving, an old lady comes around the corner, picks up an stone, and whack! hits the poor woman with it.
Jesus says, "Dammit, Mom, sometimes you really piss me off."

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