Traditional Garbage pt. 2- God Hates the Gays
Along with my most recent blog and recent discussions concerning interracial marriage, etc. I have done a bit more research on the history of marriage; including the history of marriage customs in the Bible. The following should demonstrate to the religious right that what they seem to infer as a ‘tradition’ is nothing more than a continuing evolution of pragmatic approaches to social conditions. For example, in the Old Testament days in which in Leviticus Chp. 18 where it says that man lying with a man is an abomination (continually referenced in modern debates), the verses right before that and after that include not wearing clothing made of two or more materials, not planting two seeds together- all punished by death. Now, since the Leviticus quote is often used as the ‘tradition argument’ from the biblical perspective- let’s see how the ancient Jews married. First off, the man didn’t receive a ring- the woman was belonging to the man and the man could acquire more wives- this is traditional. In fact, from the social perspective of populating a certain group this makes perfect sense- it’s the same reason early Mormons practiced polygamy for so long until it took federal threats (with the miraculous Church father getting a revelation) concerning religion/cult status for the practice to end. Now, in Leviticus it states that homosexuality (higher probability that it’s referring to pederasty) is an abomination (along with the other things I listed)- now in the context of the ancient Jews, the concept of abomination is concerning customary/uncustomary- for there is nothing intrinsically immoral about eating shell fish or for planting two seeds together- it just wasn’t customary in that culture. To further illustrate this concept, in the Old Testament Onan was killed by God for ‘pulling out’ instead of impregnating the woman. Now, if Christians are going to reference Leviticus- then why not the other rules- this selective moral posturing leaves much to be desired. Now, Jesus himself says nothing at all about homosexuality. The implication of this is that when it comes to the rules of the Old and the New one strategy is to infer that if Jesus doesn’t overturn them then they still stand- hence in Exodus when the charge of working on the Sabbath is punishable on death- Jesus didn’t overturn that so it should still stand.
Now, continuing with the problematic implications of arguing from tradition, the Catholic Church (way before Mussolini and Hitler showed up) disallowed; among other things, marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew for the benefit of the non-Jews. As mentioned in my previous email, state and federal laws in the US restricting interracial marriage had quite a long tradition. But I digress. The point of this piece is merely to go straight to the origin of the argument of ‘tradition’ and the religious wackos who feel that the Bible is the last authority on marriage issues.
How often is social/cultural context introduced in studies of the Bible? Many seem to think that because the presupposition of the Bible is that it is the ‘infallible’ word of ‘God’ it is thus timeless and absolute. However, two minutes of honest research shows that this is not only impossible but internally contradictory at some points. A theology professor at Harvard once stated that one can only tell you what the Bible reads….not what it says. I find this to be the crux of many of the debates in which the Bible is brought up. Sure, we all know John 3:16 and the story of Creation in Genesis; everyone knows what the devil looks like and can picture Jesus as some sort of hippy with Birkenstock sandals and ratty long hair. But how many people know the social conditions of the early Jewish people outside of what the Bible states? How about the ancient world in general in which we find Paul in Romans discussing homosexuality? I’m willing to bet that most don’t have a clue, for I am only really beginning to piece things together.
The most interesting aspect of historical context that I have come across is the notion of ‘homosexuality’ in the ancient world. In the languages surrounding the early Jews through the first Bible, there is no word in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic for ‘homosexuality.’ Let’s also throw in the fact that in the ancient world, though there was homosexuality, the dominant ‘alternative’ of heterosexuality was in fact pederasty. Many theologians argue that this is the homosexuality that is argued against for example in Romans. Now, at first I thought this might be a stretch until I remembered Plato’s Symposium in which Alcibiades attempts to seduce the much much older Socrates. I also began remembering the coming of age stories in ancient Greece in which it was customary for a younger male to sleep with an much older man. Yet, just reading the Bible on face value with no sense of historical context would make the loons like James Dobson (no religious credentials by the way), the Phelps Church (entertainingly insane), Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, Focus on the Family, and the scores of homophobic theocrats look all the more intelligent. Yet it is this vitriolic pursuit of separation by such heartwarming figures and their scores of minions that not only perpetuate biblical ignorance but historical ignorance as well.
Now for a long time homosexuality was defined as a ‘behavioral disorder’ in your household dictionary. This definition is still used today, for example by James Dobson on his radio program, and the first question that must come up is ‘What is this definition based on?’- for it wasn’t much long before this time that masturbation led to blindness, a woman achieving an orgasm was Wrong, foreplay was gross, sodomy laws were prevalent, and the missionary position was the only permissible position for sex. Since we have begun to climb up out of a 2000 yr old cave of sexual ignorance, we have both APAs (American Psychological Association and the American Psychoanalytic Association), AMA, and the American Pediatrics Association coming out and arguing that homosexuality is not a ‘behavioral disorder’- which for all the traditionalists who immediately decry such information as a God-hating leftist agenda- keep drinking kool-aid with Jimmy Jones, for there is sure as hell a lot more research, peer-reviewed research than a 2000 year old tradition of violent persecution, discrimination, harassment backed up by half-ass theological research lacking an eye for any sort of context.