The American Taliban (at Least in Terms of Rhetoric)

The phrase "American Taliban" is usually off the mark. However, sometimes it is closer to the mark than we might like.

I usually do not care for the term “American Taliban” as is usually applied to US social conservatives in a way that is wholly unfair.  However, two recent examples that I have encountered made me think of the term, at least in terms of describing the rhetoric in question.  In both cases we have extreme religious conservatives making extreme statements about homosexuals.

First is a YouTube video from a church in North Carolina that went viral.  In the clip, Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church speaks of putting all “queers” and lesbians into fenced off areas and dropping food to them but letting them die off because they can’t reproduce:

 

Second is a US Representative posting a verse from Leviticus that calls for the death penalty for homosexual acts.

Here’s a screenshot of post (via HuffPo):

Leviticus 20:13 states:

If a man has sexual relations with a man as one does with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable.They are to be put to death; their blood will be on their own heads.

This type of religious text is that exact same type of text that leads Islamic extremists to engage in honor killings of daughters who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage.  For example, Leviticus 20:10 states:

If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.

A couple of things come to mind:

1.  This is the type of rhetoric that used to be regularly deployed concerning race.

2.  It needs to be remembered by the religiously conservative in the US that many of the moral laws deployed by Islam have similar (if not in some cases, identical) origins to those of Christianity.  The Old Testament is a pretty harsh place and while many in the US can cite verses like Leviticus 20:13 and ignore the death penalty part and just use it as a “proof text” of the sinfulness of homosexuality, the death penalty part is still in there.

Indeed, fundamentalist Christians (who otherwise claim the perfection of the scriptures) are good at ignoring/rationalizing things (I know, because I did it for decades):

Leviticus 20:18:  “‘If a man lies with a woman during her monthly period and has sexual relations with her, he has exposed the source of her flow, and she has also uncovered it. Both of them must be cut off from their people.”   As far as I know, no pastor in the country is preaching exile for husbands who had sexual relations with their wives during their menstrual cycle.

And there is clearly a problem with Leviticus 19:33-34:  “‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them.  The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God.”  This certainly does not comport with the votes of a number of Southern Baptist legislators in Alabama and Georgia.

Back to the main point:

First, these examples, especially the video of the pastor, should remind us all that we cannot make sweeping generalizations about whole peoples and religions based on what whole peoples and religions believe (as is frequently done in the US over things said by radical Muslim clerics).

Second, even though utterances like those made are minority views, they need to be identified and condemned.   This is blatant prejudicial rhetoric that deserves opprobrium.  Also, while it may not change the mind of deeply bigoted, it may make the casually bigoted to rethink their positions.

Third, and this gets to Representative Gipson and more mainstream views:  it is necessary to take responsibility for what the texts cited actually say.  To ignore the death sentence part of the passage (not to mention ignoring other portions of the same passage) displays, at a minimum, a cherry-picking of the text.  There is a difficult choice to be made here:  either the scriptures are hard and fast, timeless rules or societal evolution matters.  If the former is true, then fundamentalists need to start calling for the death of homosexuals and adulterers as well as the exile of persons who have sexual relations during a woman’s menstrual cycle (amongst other things).  If the latter, then perhaps there needs to be a rethinking of the stance on homosexuality.

Back to the “American Taliban” bit:  the grand irony of quoting Leviticus is those who do so are those most likely to be the most concerned about radical Islam and creeping Sharia law, but they fail to see the historical commonality of their position and that which they reject. At a minimum: there needs to be a lot more awareness that the literal application of texts that Evangelical Christians hold sacred would lead to actions indistinguishable from those of the Taliban (before anyone objects to that statement, go back and re-read the quoted texts above).

Regardless of the theology or any particular irony, I would note that we need to condemn the ongoing rhetoric in the United States that seeks to treat homosexuals are less than full citizens and human beings.

Addition/Side Note: I think that what Gipson’s citation of Leviticus truly underscores is the degree to which conservative Christians (like all groups) get locked into their own worldview without examining it critically. In your typical Southern Baptist (to pick a tradition I am quite familiar with) context, the citation of that verse to other Southern Baptists would be considered simply proof that homosexuality was a sin, with not much attention being paid to the whole verse or to its context. It is only when it is cited to persons outside the group that the obvious difficulties emerge. And it should be noted that it is always easier to deploy evidence to one’s own group, because they already agree with you.

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A Set of 3 Religious Symbol image via Shutterstock

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Islam, Religion, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. MBunge says:

    You’re mostly talking here about a Protestant evangelical thing, but I think you can pair it with the rather spectactularly intricate arguments Catholics have constructed around homosexuality. I mean, go to conservative religious bloggers when this subject comes up and you find plenty of evidence of people who’ve spent a stunning amount of time thinking about the spiritual implications of dudes boinking dudes. And I don’t mean that in a “they’re latent homosexuals” way. It’s just that while conservative Catholics tend not to be as starkly, menacingly intollerant, they’ve built a vast anti-gay theology of which Leviticus is barely more than a footnote.

    Mike

  2. @MBunge:

    You’re mostly talking here about a Protestant evangelical thing,

    Yes, this is the case. It is especially so because evangelicals base their theology, generally speaking, on the foundational teaching that Bible is the perfect and inerrant word of God–no inconsistencies, not error, and nothing changes. Yet, to take that approach seriously creates a host of problems (or the need to rationalize and/or ignore a lot of the text).

  3. Jay says:

    “There is a difficult choice to be made here: either the scriptures are hard and fast, timeless rules or societal evolution matters.”

    You’re presenting a false choice because it completely ignores the new convenant with Jesus Christ. The whole idea behind being “born again” is the notion that out old self has since died. As such, nobody can condemn a dead person. As such, as Paul points out in Romans 8, we are no longer under the law since He took our sins upon him. We now live under God’s grace.

    That being said, the idiot pastor from North Carolina completely ignores what Paul wrote in Romans 2 about judgment and elsewhere regarding what Paul wrote about God’s grace.

  4. Rob in CT says:

    One pearl of wisdom my father gave me that I’ll always hold to is this: there’s nothing more dangerous than a zealot.

  5. mistermix says:

    You’re presenting a false choice because it completely ignores the new convenant with Jesus Christ. The whole idea behind being “born again” is the notion that out old self has since died. As such, nobody can condemn a dead person. As such, as Paul points out in Romans 8, we are no longer under the law since He took our sins upon him. We now live under God’s grace.

    How does this answer Steven’s point? Are you saying the Old Testament doesn’t count? I don’t understand your point. And I would like to understand it because I assume the more enlightened branches of Christianity have a way to deal with the passages in the bible that deal with, e.g., slavery, without throwing the whole thing out.

  6. @Jay:

    You’re presenting a false choice because it completely ignores the new convenant with Jesus Christ. The whole idea behind being “born again” is the notion that out old self has since died. As such, nobody can condemn a dead person.

    I am aware of the general argument, although I find it problematic. How does that statement deal with the passage from Leviticus? Does it nullify the entire passage? Clearly this is not the position that contemporary evangelicals take. If the new covenant takes away the death penalty takes about the death sentence in Leviticus, why it leave homosexuality a sin?

  7. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Good blog post.

    Indeed, religious extremism is religious extremism, whether in the name of Allah or of Christ. That said, however, until we see the likes of Messrs. Worley and Gipson actually beheading homosexuals and stoning adulterers the Taliban analogy nevertheless is pretty far from apt.

    Lastly, on a separate but related topic, I have a Roman Catholic mother and a Jewish father. I neither was baptized, however, nor mitzvahed. Ended up an atheist. Every now and then, in the wee hours of the morning, I wonder if I missed out on anything. But then I read and see the comments of the likes of Worley and Gipson and I thank my lucky stars.

  8. After calling for the death of homosexuals, we’re now apparently supposed to feel sad that Gipson is getting death threats back.

    Here, let me play the world’s tiniest violin for you.

  9. mattb says:

    @Jay:

    As such, as Paul points out in Romans 8, we are no longer under the law since He took our sins upon him. We now live under God’s grace.

    But this speaks to Steven’s larger point. If you accept Romans 8 and that Christians are no longer bound by Talmudic Law (aka Leviticus) then you can no longer use Leviticus as justification for Homosexuality as abhorrent behavior.

    Or, if you choose to say that while Leviticus’ penalty for Homosexuality (aka execution) no longer hold, but the sanction Homosexuality holds, then it also stands that everything Leviticus casts as wrong still remains wrong. So for example, Christians should never be tattooed.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Lastly, on a separate but related topic, I have a Roman Catholic mother and a Jewish father. I neither was baptized, however, nor mitzvahed.

    Interesting, I have 2 friends who have similar backgrounds and in their respective families all the children were raised outside of religion and the traditions of faith.

  11. Holden Pattern says:

    Back to the “American Taliban” bit: the grand irony of quoting Leviticus is those who do so are those most likely to be the most concerned about radical Islam and creeping Sharia law, but they fail to see the historical commonality of their position and that which they reject.

    No, no they don’t fail to see that. You’re giving them way too much credit here. For DOMESTIC consumption, the evil mooslums are the great enemy. Internationally, they’re pals, because the real enemies are women, children and gay people, and the evil secularists who would give them rights that aren’t controlled by the male paterfamilias, as the deity intended.

    http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/IslamicBloc.htm
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2005/jan/25/worlddispatch.brianwhitaker

  12. PD Shaw says:

    Jay’s correct. Why do Christians eat pork since Leviticus 11:7 forbids it?

  13. @Steven L. Taylor:

    It’s also not really much of an improvement. Jay is basically arguing the viewpoint “Well homosexuals certainly DESERVE to die, but I’m so enlightened that I’m going to let you get away without executing you in hopes that someday you’ll realize what a truly horrible person you are. Aren’t I a great guy?”

    I don’t care if Jay forgives homosexuals, we don’t need to be forgiven; homosexuality is not a sin.

  14. PD Shaw says:

    Evangelicalism is not the same as fundamentalism. Link.

  15. @PD Shaw:

    Jay’s correct. Why do Christians eat pork since Leviticus 11:7 forbids it?

    Indeed. But by that logic, homosexuality should therefore not be a sin (and yes, I am being simplistic).

    The broader theological point is that despite the general argument of the new covenant, the specifics are actually, to my mind, vague and mushy. The dietary laws are out, but the moral code remains. However, the exact way this works is not easy to ascertain (unless it is filtered through cultural and political norms but if that is the case, then the supposedly immutable is, in fact, mutable).

  16. Holden Pattern says:

    @PD Shaw: Because apparently Acts 10 ONLY means that you can eat pork and shellfish (mmmm…, delicious gumbo), never mind that the text goes beyond parable and beats the reader over the head that PERSONS are not clean or unclean.

  17. @PD Shaw:

    Evangelicalism is not the same as fundamentalism

    Well, as your link notes, they can be. Still, I will allow that the language can be tricky. Which term do you think is the more appropriate for this conversation?

    Certainly the evangelicals who are also fundamentalists fit the bill.

  18. mantis says:

    You could just run the West Wing clip and save some time.

  19. mattb says:

    It should also be noted that the passage from Romans, which the Representative quoted, when taken in the fuller concept is about a congregation of former Christians abandoning God and turning to hedonism and orgies. As some, more progressive Christians have interpreted it, the vile activity was not so much homosexuality as hetrosexuals turning against their nature and engaging in homosexual sex.

    By that logic, they argue, someone born homosexuals (aka as God made them) is engaging in ahorhent behavior if they attempt to go against their nature and be straight.

    But beyond that, the broader issue was that the Romans had turned their backs on God and ceased worshiping him. That was the real sin — turning their worship spaces into orgy halls.

  20. James says:

    Why is this so hard for people? Hebrew law is not a buffet table.

  21. PD Shaw says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Your background appears to be based on knowledge of Southern Baptist fundamentalism, which is both based upon strict literalism and incorporation of community folk beliefs. There is absolutely nothing in the Bible from a strict literalist perspective that supports racism. I know that some have taken an allegorical reading from Noah’s son Ham, but that’s not a literalist interpretation and runs counter to the New Testament Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Presbyterian and Catholic Churches were opposed to anti-miscegenation laws; the fundamentalists were not.

    However, the New Testament does discuss homosexuality, but not in as a clear fashion. Link.

  22. Janis Gore says:

    I just watched the video. The pastor’s opinion doesn’t sound rooted in theology at all.

    “Can you imagine kissing some man? Gyawd…”

  23. @PD Shaw: Yes, but the New Testament’s discussion of homosexuality come from Paul, who bases his position on Jewish law and traditions.

  24. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Yes, but the New Testament’s discussion of homosexuality come from Paul, who bases his position on Jewish law and traditions.

    But even there he’s selective. So for example, Paul allows people to convert to “New Judism”/Christianity without circumcision and would ultimate argue against any force circumcision practices.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision_controversy_in_early_Christianity#Teaching_of_Paul

  25. mattb says:

    The larger point in all of this is that we’re discussing Biblical hermeneutics. And following this logic, if the Bible and the Talmud are subject to the hermeneutic process, one must then ask why is it that some believe that the Koran can only be read literally (which is ultimately the belief at the core of all attacks on Islam*).

    * – Note that I’m separating attacks on Islam the religion, versus attacks on Islamic Fundamentalism. Reductionist arguments (see Park 52), of course, don’t see any difference between one and the other.

  26. PD Shaw says:

    @Janis Gore: Well that’s how this guy feels. I think maybe I need to convert to a religion that has as a center of its spiritual demands that I don’t kiss dudes. I’d be the dalai lama in no time. And then I can start one of those diets that just requires me to not eat brussel sprouts.

    @Steven L. Taylor: What Paul said and what it means is debated.

  27. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor, @Jay: I wish I could give more expansive comments, but I’m commenting from my phone at work, both of which demand brevity.

    That being said, I agree with Jay’s representation, at least as far as it goes. Doc, you are presenting a false choice which doesn’t include Christ’s redemptive nature. And His crucifixion and resurrection didn’t make homosexuality not a sin, sorry, Stormy. And I say that as a father who dearly loves his gay son and lesbian daughter with all my heart.

    But here’s the point that I think these fundamentalists miss: “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” And “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

    Oh, and “…first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

    My bottom line: we’re all sinners. Who am I to say that someone else’s sin is worse than mine? Also, God takes care of punishment for sins, not me.

    Lastly, even I wonder what the long version would look like if this is the short version.

  28. Frankly says:

    You suggest that that fundamentalists like your Baptist brothern *know* the death penalty part is not to be taken literally . . . REALLY? How do they know that? What magic separates the condemnation from the punishment? Particularly when those groups say that the entire book is divine and 100% literal truth?

    Even assuming they believe that now (and I will happily point out people who will disagree with your statement of separation) how long under this barrage of BS would it take before a significant number of people don’t see the two as unconnected? It certainly is not disconnected in large parts Christian Africa and certainly not in large parts of the Islamic world where the term “Taliban” comes from.

    If the moniker fits they should wear it. These people are the American Taliban.

  29. @Boyd: BTW, no need for the long version, as I am well versed in it (pun partially intended).

    The problem is this: let’s just go with the redemptive power and all that and let people live lives and treat all humans as equal. In other words: why get all ruffled over homosexuality? There is lot of sin going on and I think that many fundamentalists get focused more than too much on this one.

    And I say that as a father who dearly loves his gay son and lesbian daughter with all my heart.

    This is, of course, the crux of the matter.

  30. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I agree with that comment 100%.

  31. mattb says:

    @Boyd: Well said.

    And while we can debate back and forth over whether or not Homosexuality is a sin, I think that argument misses a two broader points. First is what exactly elevates Homosexuality to its level of attention? No where is it listed in the key 11 commandments (I’m including the “Golden Rule” as a key commandment).

    Second, and to your point, is that Christ was sent not just to the Elect, but to the sinners. He hung out with the untouchables of his day. To imagine that these people should be cut off from the Church or prosecuted in such a way ignores the very actions of Christ.

    Oscar Wilde (someone who knew more than a bit about Christianity and society’s persecution of Homosexuals) eloquently highlighted this sort of pious hypocrisy in his “Ballad of Reading Goal [Jail]”:

    The Chaplain would not kneel to pray
    By his dishonored grave:
    Nor mark it with that blessed Cross
    That Christ for sinners gave,
    Because the man was one of those
    Whom Christ came down to save.

  32. Neil Hudelson says:

    , Charles L. Worley of Providence Road Baptist Church speaks of putting all “queers” and lesbians into fenced off areas and dropping food to them but letting them die off because they can’t reproduce

    Ok…I’ve heard this proposed a few times by bigots and the like. By the nature of homosexuals not normally reproducing (I mean you can do surrogates and IVF, but you tend not to get a ‘whoops’ baby), why would you need to “fence them off and drop them food.”

    Is the pastor unaware of how reproduction works? Does he think that without fencing off homosexuals, they will somehow start to reproduce?

    And does he think that homosexuals only produce other homosexuals, and that heterosexuals only produce other heterosexuals?

    I don’t know what sickens me more, his hatred or his stupidity.

    No, definitely the hatred. But his stupidity sickens me nonetheless.

  33. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Boyd: @mattb:

    I think you are both arguing the same point, in a way. By 99% of Christian denomination views, yes homosexuality is a sin (I’m one of those Christians who believes it is not a sin). What most more tolerant churches (Presbyterian, Methodist, some Episcopalian, etc) preach is that it is a sin just like thousands of other sins that everyone commits. . That it shouldn’t elevated to the level it has been.

    By new Testament teachings, looking at someone with lust in your heart is the same as adultery. Yet you don’t hear preachers condemning quite literally every person in the world. Somehow with this particular ‘sin,’ condemnation is required. It doesn’t make sense. But then, as pointed out in my above comment, usually the people condemning homosexuals do not display much intelligence in general.

  34. Neil Hudelson says:

    Oops, I know see mattb wasn’t arguing with Boyd. My apologies.

  35. @Boyd:

    His crucifixion and resurrection didn’t make homosexuality not a sin, sorry, Stormy.

    You’re right. Objective morality makes it not a sin. If your God says otherwise, then your God is wrong.

    And I say that as a father who dearly loves his gay son and lesbian daughter with all my heart.

    I disagree. You may love, but you do not love them.

  36. Boyd says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Thanks, Stormy! We’re just so fortunate to have you here, since you’re the final authority on sin and love.

    And the best part is that you’re so humble about it, too.

  37. @Boyd:

    As opposed to “And His crucifixion and resurrection didn’t make homosexuality not a sin, sorry, Stormy”, which is in no way final or authoritative.

    Oh, but I keep forgetting. You read it in a book once, so your pronouncements are simply self-evident truth. It’s only people who disagree with you that are being unhumble by stating what they believe.

  38. mantis says:

    Stormy,

    Only a jackass would claim to know how much another loves his own children. Don’t be a jackass.

    And to your original claim:

    homosexuality is not a sin.

    I agree, but then I’m not a Christian and I think the very concept of “sin” is ridiculous. If I were a Christian (and I once was), I would have to disagree, at least in part. One has to do a lot of fancy and dishonest footwork to claim that homosexual acts are not sins according to scripture.

  39. @mantis:

    Only a jackass would claim to know how much another loves his own children. Don’t be a jackass.

    But there’s no problem juding the quality of my love, by calling it a sinful abomination?

  40. MBunge says:

    @mattb: “It should also be noted that the passage from Romans, which the Representative quoted, when taken in the fuller concept is about a congregation of former Christians abandoning God and turning to hedonism and orgies.”

    It’s also the case that other references to homosexuality in the Bible can also be seen as being more about pagan hedonism than what we today understand as being gay.

    Mike

  41. James says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Well, two wrongs certainly don’t make a right.

  42. Boyd, by his own admission, does not accept the legitimacy of his children’s essential nature. So while he may love them in the ideal, he very clearly does not love the actuality of them. He loves them, but he doesn’t love them.

  43. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    sinful abomination

    To be fair to Boyd, he called it a “sin” and not “a sinful abomination” — kinda big difference there for Christians.

    I’d go further and guess that to him, the love isn’t so much a “sin” as the actual sex part (though admittedly I might be putting words in his mouth). I’d also guess that Boyd would say premarital sex is a sin.

    There are Christians like Neil and myself that don’t view Homosexual sex as a sin. There are some like Boyd who do. But we’re all united in the belief in Christian understanding we’re all sinful and all redeemable even in our sinfulness. That was the ultimate point that Boyd was trying to make and somewhat lost.

    I completely understand how you would get hung up on the word “sin” in this context. But to do so misses the larger set of beliefs that Boyd is articulating. And I think in doing so you have unfairly judged what Boyd has written about his loving relationship with his children in a way that is fundamentally intolerant.

  44. @mantis:

    One has to do a lot of fancy and dishonest footwork to claim that homosexual acts are not sins according to scripture.

    My issue is not with the interpretation of scripture, but the conclusion that scripture must necessarily be correct. Outsourcing one’s duty to make proper moral judgements to a 2,000 year old book is a form of idolatry.

  45. mantis says:

    But there’s no problem juding the quality of my love, by calling it a sinful abomination?

    I do think there is a problem with that. That’s one of the reasons I’m not a Christian.

    In any case, I don’t see where Boyd judged anything. He recognized that Christianity holds homosexuality (or at least, homosexual acts) to be sinful. That’s not his judgement. It’s a fact. And he didn’t call it an abomination at all. Now you’re just lying in addition to claiming knowledge of the depth of others’ feelings for their own children.

    Stop digging, Stormy. I’m on your side, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend Christian doctrine is something other than what it is.

  46. mantis says:

    My issue is not with the interpretation of scripture, but the conclusion that scripture must necessarily be correct.

    So your problem is with Christians believing in scripture? Umm, ok, but how else would you expect Christians to behave?

    Outsourcing one’s duty to make proper moral judgements to a 2,000 year old book is a form of idolatry.

    This is a rather silly statement. Why don’t you just call all religion idolatry and be done with it?

  47. @mantis:

    In any case, I don’t see where Boyd judged anything. He recognized that Christianity holds homosexuality (or at least, homosexual acts) to be sinful.

    Saying that homosexuality is a sin is a judgement.

    I’m on your side, but that doesn’t mean we should pretend Christian doctrine is something other than what it is.

    Again, I’m not denying that Christian doctrine is that homosexulaity is a sin. I am asserting that Christian doctine is wrong about that.

  48. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    Yes, Boyd didn’t say it was an “abomination.”

    That was the Bible.

  49. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    Not all Christians interpret scripture the same way, correct? So when you say, “what other way would you expect Christians to behave?” are you talking about Catholics, or Methodists, or Lutherans, or Baptists, or Seventh-Day Adventists, or Episcopalians, or Jehovah’s Witnesses?

  50. @mantis:

    This is a rather silly statement. Why don’t you just call all religion idolatry and be done with it?

    Well, it was intended to be more absurdist then silly.

  51. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    I am asserting that Christian doctine is wrong about that.

    I would suggest that you go another step and just reject the entire idea of sin, at least from a Christian perspective, rather than play games about which Christians sins are real and which aren’t.

    @Fargus:

    Yes, Boyd didn’t say it was an “abomination.”

    That was the Bible.

    I am aware. I prefer my fantasy with more action.

  52. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Again, I’m not denying that Christian doctrine is that homosexulaity is a sin. I am asserting that Christian doctine is wrong about that.

    And you must see how that would be offensive to a Christian who disagrees? And especially to a Christian who has worked to reconcile his faith with the facts of his family life?

    I think that in your quest for a transcendent purity, you risk ending up alienating people who would generally have your back.

    Boyd != The type of Christian Taliban that Steven was writing about.

  53. Fargus says:

    @mattb:

    Honest question: why is it on Stormy to respect the feelings of those with whom he disagrees by not forthrightly stating his points of disagreement, while it’s totally fine for Boyd to tell Stormy that his entire way of life is a sin?

  54. @mattb:

    So the mere suggestion that Christianity might be wrong about something is cause for offense, and I have some sort of duty never to offend Christians? How is saying all of the non-christians in society have an obligation to act as though everything Christians assert is correct all that different from the Taliban?

  55. mantis says:

    Not all Christians interpret scripture the same way, correct? So when you say, “what other way would you expect Christians to behave?” are you talking about Catholics, or Methodists, or Lutherans, or Baptists, or Seventh-Day Adventists, or Episcopalians, or Jehovah’s Witnesses?

    I’m talking about those who don’t twist themselves in knots trying to deny the plain words of the bible in which they otherwise profess to believe. Otherwise it is a la carte religion. I realize that nearly all denominations do this to some extent, but everyone denies it.

    Anyway, I would never belong in a club whose rulebook recommends death for actions I consider to be neither morally nor ethically wrong, regardless of whether it’s adherents follow those particular recommendations or not. It’s kind of like saying I’m a Nazi except for that whole Holocaust thing. I don’t understand why people do it. You either believe the Bible is the word of G-O-D, or you don’t. If you actually believe in some sort of supreme creator, I don’t see why you would think you get to pick and choose which of the creator’s rules you should follow.

    Now Jonathan Edwards was a real Christian. The Christian God is an angry, vengeful, sadist, and capricious tyrant. His son seems like a nice kid, but that seems like little more than the old good cop, bad cop routine to me.

  56. george says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Most of us who are parents don’t accept everything they do (or everything we do ourselves, none of us is perfect). Does that mean we don’t love them?

    For instance, I have a child who’s been in trouble with the law, and I don’t accept what he’s done that caused that problem. Yet I stil feel as if I love him, and do my best to support him. I think you’re living too much in the abstract, its actually very easy for a parent to fully love a child without accepting everythingt they do.

  57. mantis says:

    @Fargus:

    Honest question: why is it on Stormy to respect the feelings of those with whom he disagrees by not forthrightly stating his points of disagreement,

    Stormy claimed to have knowledge of what is in Boyd’s heart, denying Boyd’s feelings for his own children. That is beyond “forthrightly stating his points of disagreement.”

    while it’s totally fine for Boyd to tell Stormy that his entire way of life is a sin?

    That’s what the Bible says. Boyd didn’t write the Bible (did you, Boyd?).

    What if I say adultery is a sin. Any adulterers want to get all freaked out at me for “judging” them?

  58. @mantis:

    If you actually believe in some sort of supreme creator, I don’t see why you would think you get to pick and choose which of the creator’s rules you should follow.

    One can believe in the existence of God, but believe that human writings about them are flawed. One can even believe that a particular book is significantly less flawed than the others. The problem comes when you try to start attributing a supernatural nature to the book that requires everything in it be perfect.

  59. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    I think you hit on the answer here, implicitly. Yes, people pick and choose what rules they want to follow. This implies that people generally have a morality that exists separately from the Bible, and which they seek to impose on the Bible. If they don’t like gay people but do like shrimp, then the Old Testament commandments against homosexuality gain outsize importance while the dietary laws fade away into historical ephemera.

    The important part, though, is that EVERYONE DOES THIS. If you’re a Christian, of any stripe, and you don’t follow some of the stuff in the Bible because you don’t like it, then you’ve undermined the case for following any of the stuff in it because you do.

  60. george says:

    BTW, I don’t personally think there’s anything wrong with homosexuality – but if its not that, then there’s something else. I don’t know anyone who accepts everything their children do. And yet I think most people honestly love their children.

  61. Fargus says:

    @george:

    I don’t want to speak for Stormy, but I’d say your analogy is wrong because you’re talking about something your kid DID. You love him despite something he DID. Stormy’s talking about parents who claim to love their kids despite disagreeing fundamentally with something they ARE.

  62. @mantis:

    That’s what the Bible says. Boyd didn’t write the Bible (did you, Boyd?).

    No, but when Boyd says the Bible is correct, then it is also what Boyd says too.

  63. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    Stormy claimed to have knowledge of what is in Boyd’s heart, denying Boyd’s feelings for his own children. That is beyond “forthrightly stating his points of disagreement.”

    Wasn’t talking about that part. I was talking about the part where mattb admonished Stormy for saying something that would be offensive for Christians to hear. To wit: “And you must see how that would be offensive to a Christian who disagrees?” Not about Boyd’s personal relationship with his children, but about the suggestion that the Bible might not be right about homosexuality.

    That’s what the Bible says. Boyd didn’t write the Bible (did you, Boyd?).

    So it’s ok to be offensive as long as it’s written in a book you didn’t write? What? But having the opinion that that book is not authoritative on every subject is somehow OFF LIMITS?

    What if I say adultery is a sin. Any adulterers want to get all freaked out at me for “judging” them?

    Adultery is something someone DOES. Homosexuality is something someone IS. Can you honestly not see the difference?

    Edited to correct attribution.

  64. george says:

    @Fargus:

    I’m not sure, speaking as a parent, that there’s any difference between what a child is and what they do. A homosexual is someone who feels sexually attacted to someone of their sex – ie its something they do. All of us have feelings or impulses, and most of us don’t agree with all the ones we have ourselves, or those our children have. But we still love our children.

    I guess I don’t see homosexuality being anything more than just a set of impulses (just as hetrosexuality is, or the urge to run and play), and I don’t know that many parents who don’t love their children despite disagreeing with their child’s impulses.

  65. Fargus says:

    @george:

    You’re intentionally equating homosexuality with committing a crime. Are you sure this a path down which you want to go?

    That is, I know you’re hedging by parenthetically invoking heterosexuality or the urge to run and play, but can you point me to any parents who disapprove of their kids for heterosexuality or an urge to run and play?

  66. mantis says:

    No, but when Boyd says the Bible is correct, then it is also what Boyd says too.

    The concept of sin comes from the Bible. The Bible defines those sins. If it isn’t correct about what is or isn’t a sin, then how can the concept of sin even be correct? Choosing which sins to accept negates the premise of sin.

    What I see in Boyd’s comment is an acceptance that according to Christian doctrine, all people are sinners, and all people are instructed not to judge each other. You seem to want him to explicitly reject one part of Christian doctrine and accept others. This, of course, is the basis of most religious wars and persecution campaigns throughout human history. In other words, not a good model on which to base your perspective, IMHO.

    In any case, I don’t really begrudge people wanted to argue about doctrine. Go to it. I personally reject it entirely, so I have taken the easy position. My primary objection was to your claiming to peer into his heart and judge the quality of his love for his children. That is beyond a religious argument. You don’t have any way of knowing what you profess to know.

  67. Boyd says:

    Argh! Why can’t we be having this conversation tomorrow, when I can be on a real computer plus not having that nasty ol’ work getting in the way? (That was rhetorical, guys)

    First, Matt and Mantis, thanks, your analysis of my position as you attributed it to me is spot on. And Mantis, I wish more Christians had the sort of understanding of Christianity that you have, that we don’t get to pick and choose from a “Christian menu.”

    And Fargus, Stormy and probably some others that I can’t recall, the Biblical prohibition is against homosexual behavior, not homosexuality per se. Ironically, I view adultery and homosexuality pretty much the opposite of Fargus’s formulation. Adultery in one’s thoughts is also a sin (because of the betrayal of one’s partner), whereas homosexuality is only a sin if acted upon. That’s what the Bible teaches me, and I take full responsibility for agreeing with what it tells me.

    Also, while as a former linguist, I fully understand the interpretive nature of translation, much of what we’re discussing here is pretty straightforward when it comes to translating from Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, etc. And as a Christian, I have to believe all of the Bible. If it’s not all God’s word, then none of it is.

  68. @mantis:

    Oh, I would certainly agree I’m a sinner. I often avoid awkward situations by lying. I’m very spiteful. etc. But Boyd isn’t just saying I’m a sinner. He’s saying I’m a sinner specifically because of the people I’ve loved. Who I love is not a sin, it’s the best of me.

    And Boyd is free to think that. But I think he’s wrong and will say so, and if that is all it takes to offend him, well, then he better get used to being offended.

  69. mantis says:

    @Fargus:

    I think you hit on the answer here, implicitly. Yes, people pick and choose what rules they want to follow.

    I think I was pretty explicit about it, but ok.

    This implies that people generally have a morality that exists separately from the Bible, and which they seek to impose on the Bible.

    Indeed, and my question is why does one need this Bible thing anyway, since one will just project one’s own morality on to it?

    The important part, though, is that EVERYONE DOES THIS. If you’re a Christian, of any stripe, and you don’t follow some of the stuff in the Bible because you don’t like it, then you’ve undermined the case for following any of the stuff in it because you do.

    This was my point, adding that once one recognizes this, one realizes there is no reason whatsoever to argue about what is or is not correct in the Bible, as Stormy wants to do.

    Wasn’t talking about that part. I was talking about the part where mattb admonished Stormy for saying something that would be offensive for Christians to hear.

    I failed to notice you addressed that comment at mattb. I’ll let him speak for himself.

    So it’s ok to be offensive as long as it’s written in a book you didn’t write?

    Is it offensive to recognize what is written in the book? Is it offensive to be a Christian? Is that what you are saying?

    But having the opinion that that book is not authoritative on every subject is somehow OFF LIMITS?

    I never said it was off limits. Don’t try to put words in my mouth. I’m saying it is hypocritical, stupid, and counterproductive to argue about which sins identified in the Bible are truly sins and which ones we can just ignore. If you get to ignore any of them, you might as well ignore the whole book.

    Adultery is something someone DOES. Homosexuality is something someone IS. Can you honestly not see the difference?

    I can see the difference, which is why I noted that the Bible condemns homosexual acts (i.e. something someone does). Of course, I was raised Catholic, and that church teaches that your very thoughts are actions that can be sinful, so from that perspective I don’t see much of a difference.

    And by the way, have I made it clear that I think pretty much everything in the Bible is a load of crap? Because I do. I just don’t get why people bother with it if they are going to ignore much of the book to tailor it to their beliefs anyway.

  70. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    So the mere suggestion that Christianity might be wrong about something is cause for offense, and I have some sort of duty never to offend Christians? How is saying all of the non-christians in society have an obligation to act as though everything Christians assert is correct all that different from the Taliban?

    *Sigh* … Please take a step back and reread what you wrote:

    You were not suggesting that “Christianity might be wrong” but that it “was wrong.” I’m sorry, you were not opening a space for discussion, you were condemning. And in doing so you were claiming superior moral ground at the same time you were attacking Boyd for claiming superior moral ground.

    Further, reading across your comments you were attacking Boyd and other Christians for needing a 2000 year old text to define their morality.

    What all of that does is negate how Boyd openly admits to be struggling with all of these issues.

    Further, in you chose to attack Boyd on a completely intimate topic — ie his love for his children — and suggest that his love is fundamentally deficient.

    Now you are well within your free speech/discussion rights to do all of this. But if you fail to see how you are trading one for of fundamentalism for another (at least in your argument style). Further you failed to see how nuanced what Boyd was writing was. The net result was a reductive argument which leaves your interlocator (and onlookers) feeling that unless they are 100% with you, they are against you.

    Ad that’s not helpful for your broader cause.

  71. @Boyd:

    And as a Christian, I have to believe all of the Bible. If it’s not all God’s word, then none of it is.

    The Bible is man’s word. God’s word prexisted creation (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”), much less the writing of the Bible and is made known to you through the Holy Spirit (“But the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things”).*

    * — While I no longer consider myself Christian I was raised as one.

  72. Fargus says:

    @Boyd:

    I appreciate your thoughtful comments, no matter how much I disagree with them.

    Here’s where I get hung up on the homosexuality thing: do you feel that it’s a sin to eat pork or shellfish or wear blended cloth, or any of the other actions that are prohibited in the long, long list of laws in the Old Testament? You must, right? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but I can’t imagine how you couldn’t, if you say that it’s on that authority that you believe fully that homosexuality is a sin. If I’m off base, please let me know. If not, I’d be interested to understand what singles that one Levitical law out for such scrutiny while abandoning the others to not even be thought about.

  73. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    But Boyd isn’t just saying I’m a sinner.

    He didn’t say that, though I can see why you inferred that. He said that Jesus’s redemption of man on the cross did not make sins not sins. What it did (according to doctrine) was give the sinners a path to forgiveness for those sins.

    He’s saying I’m a sinner specifically because of the people I’ve loved. Who I love is not a sin, it’s the best of me.

    Can the adulter not love his mistress? Can one not lie out of love? Can one not love the one he/she sinfully covets? In certain circumstances, could one not steal or kill out of love?

    Doctrine doesn’t change just because love is involved. However, I would imagine, by most Christians’ reckoning, that it increases the chance at forgiveness.

    Let me ask you this, Stormy: do you believe in the Christian God and the Christian concept of sin? If so, why do you get to choose which sins are truly sins?

  74. mantis says:

    @mantis:

    Forget that last question. I see you answered it.

    While I no longer consider myself Christian I was raised as one.

    Then why do you want to tell Christians which rules they should accept and which they should reject? Shouldn’t you be arguing against the entire enterprise, and the very concept of sin?

  75. @mantis:

    Let me ask you this, Stormy: do you believe in the Christian God and the Christian concept of sin? If so, why do you get to choose which sins are truly sins?

    I don’t believe or disbelieve in the Christian God. I have no evidence they do not exist, but given the claims made, I find them generall unbeleivable. That said, I do find a lot of value in the Bible from a literary standpoint.

    And perhaps weirdly, I do believe in (what I see as) the Christian concept of sin, even though I do not believe in the Christian God. Although I disagree with many Christians what constitutes a sin.

  76. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    Do you really think it would be more effective for Stormy to approach Boyd advocating root and branch upheaval of his entire religion, or to push for more tolerance of this particular issue within his religious tradition?

  77. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    This implies that people generally have a morality that exists separately from the Bible, and which they seek to impose on the Bible. If they don’t like gay people but do like shrimp, then the Old Testament commandments against homosexuality gain outsize importance while the dietary laws fade away into historical ephemera.

    The important part, though, is that EVERYONE DOES THIS. If you’re a Christian, of any stripe, and you don’t follow some of the stuff in the Bible because you don’t like it, then you’ve undermined the case for following any of the stuff in it because you do.

    I would argue that the type of Christians that you are describing have a rather immature view of scripture.

    You are right that morality is something that changes over the years. But parrellel to all of this is a tradition of biblical hermenutics (a tradition that exists in all faiths based on texts, btw) in which one looks to the texts for guidance in the face of changing times. And this does lead to competing interpretations of the texts.

    To that point, if you are a literalist, then you need to follow everything literally. I think that’s a fair point.

    I have seen arguments for considering homosexuality a sin based on the new testament by itself (that don’t go into Leviticus).

    But as I have noted, there are counter interpretations of many of those same passages.

    However, the basis of any good interpretation to do one’s best to remain true to both the text and the interpretive style. Which is a complicated and messy process.

    Unfortunately, more “fundamentalist” atheists often see this process of interpretation as being somehow inherently dishonest and self serving. Its that I object to more than anything else (and my beef with Stormy’s behavior towards Boyd).

    It’s starting from the position that not only is your debating partner wrong, but they are either immoral or a hypocrite. That turns a debate into an argument and guarantees that neither side is going to feel safe enough to question their assumptions because they are under attack.

  78. Fargus says:

    @mattb:

    Any interpretation is going to be filtered through the sensibilities brought to the table by the person doing the interpreting, no? I think it’s entirely uncontroversial to say that their views are going to affect how they choose to interpret scripture.

  79. @mattb:

    Unfortunately, more “fundamentalist” atheists often see this process of interpretation as being somehow inherently dishonest and self serving. Its that I object to more than anything else (and my beef with Stormy’s behavior towards Boyd).

    I do not consider the process of interpretation to be “inherently dishonest and self serving”. My problem with Boyd is two fold: 1) acting as though he is completely unresponsible for the end result of his interpretations, adn 2) acting as though his interpretations are priveleged, such that he may phrase them as absolutes, but anyone else stating their interpretations in a similarly absolute manner is being arrogant.

  80. mantis says:

    @Fargus:

    Do you really think it would be more effective for Stormy to approach Boyd advocating root and branch upheaval of his entire religion, or to push for more tolerance of this particular issue within his religious tradition?

    Effective? Maybe not, but it would be more honest and it would make more sense. But then I don’t think any attempts to talk people out of their religious beliefs are very effective. At least not in my experience (I’ve tried, I assure you!).

    Given the fact that Boyd professes to take Jesus’s advice to not judge others, leaving the judgements to the higher powers, and accepts and loves his own homosexual children, I would say he’s as tolerant as a Christian can reasonably be.

    I don’t believe in Christianity (or any religion, for that matter), but if more Christians acted like Christ, we’d all be better off. Seems to me that is what Boyd advocates. How does one “push for more tolerance” better than by example?

  81. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    And perhaps weirdly, I do believe in (what I see as) the Christian concept of sin, even though I do not believe in the Christian God.

    Definitely weirdly. Can’t you just live by your own moral code, without “the Christian concept of sin?” After all, what is sin without punishment from the power that defined it? How can you believe in sin but not necessarily a god to enforce it? Sin doesn’t exist without god.

  82. @mattb:

    Further, in you chose to attack Boyd on a completely intimate topic — ie his love for his children — and suggest that his love is fundamentally deficient.

    Yes, that was mean (as I said, I’m given to the sin of being spiteful), but you seem to fail to understand that calling homosexuality a sin, is hitting people just as intimately, suggesting that their love is fundamentally deficient.

  83. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    Here’s where I get hung up on the homosexuality thing: do you feel that it’s a sin to eat pork or shellfish or wear blended cloth, or any of the other actions that are prohibited in the long, long list of laws in the Old Testament?

    Here’s a problem with your line of thought. You’re arguing from a lack of knowledge on the subject.

    As I mentioned above, it’s entirely possible for a Christian to base their views on homosexuality on content contained in the Epistles of the New Testament. So someone can argue that the writings of Paul, by themselves, describe homosexual sex as sinful. And as noted above there are counter arguments to be made for at least some of those passages.

    So it is entirely possible for a Christian to eat shellfish AND see homosexuality as a sin without being a hypocrite.

    However, there is a BIG caveat to this… If a Christian is using OT Law, in particular Leviticus, to justify homosexuality as sin, then to remain true to the text and their interpretation method, they need to take the rest of it too. So for example, those folks shouldn’t get tattoos, masturbate, wear mixed fibers, and really should be eating kosher.

  84. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    Y’ever read Slacktivist? Evangelical Christian who just happens to have a different interpretation framework than what you seem to be claiming is necessary for self-ID as Christian. Yes, I agree that Boyd seems to be more tolerant than most, but it’s awfully small-minded of you to imagine that he represents the pinnacle of how tolerant somebody who IDs as Christian can be.

  85. @mantis:

    The part of the Christian concept of sin that I believe in is the idea that when you are doing something wrong, you are doing damage to yourself as well as to the victims of your acts.

  86. mantis says:

    @mantis:

    My problem with Boyd is two fold: 1) acting as though he is completely unresponsible for the end result of his interpretations

    What end result? He seems to be saying that all people are sinners, including his homosexual children, but it’s not his place to judge and he loves his children no matter what. What is your problem with that end result?

    acting as though his interpretations are priveleged, such that he may phrase them as absolutes

    Read the Bible again. It’s pretty damned absolutist.

  87. Fargus says:

    @mattb:

    Thank you for telling me I’m ignorant (and for dressing it up in words to make it sound like you weren’t saying that!), but in fact I do know what I’m talking about. Boyd explicitly stated that Jesus’s sacrifice didn’t make all the sins in the OT not sins anymore.

  88. Vast Variety says:

    @Boyd: “If it’s not all God’s word, then none of it is. ”

    And none of it is the word of God, for the bible wasn’t written by God, it was written and edited by men with ambitions of power and control over society.

  89. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    The part of the Christian concept of sin that I believe in is the idea that when you are doing something wrong, you are doing damage to yourself as well as to the victims of your acts.

    Then you don’t believe in the Christian concept of sin.

    What’s the number one sin in Christianity, above all others, according to both the Ten Commandments and from Jesus’s own mouth (Matthew 22:35)? It’s “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” To not do so is the greatest sin one can commit. Do you really think you believe in the Christian concept of sin? Think it over.

  90. Fargus says:

    @mantis:

    So why would it be wrong for Stormy to, as forcefully, state his opinion of that particular piece of Boyd’s worldview? Moreover, why are we sitting here talking about how offensive Stormy has been to Boyd in expressing his opinion, without waiting for Boyd to come in and relate whether he was offended or not?

  91. J-Dub says:

    The bible is bunk, gay people are awesome, and everything is better with bacon. Argument over.

  92. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    I think it’s entirely uncontroversial to say that their views are going to affect how they choose to interpret scripture.

    True, but the task of the interpreter — like that of the scientist — is to limit their own effect on the interpretation.

    A good interpreter is always trained to be reflexive. And a good interpretation always questions itself every step of the way.

    So, while I accept that there will always be some level of the interpreter reflected in the interpretation, I reject the idea that somehow subverts the entire process of interpretation.

  93. @mantis:

    but it’s not his place to judge and he loves his children no matter what

    Except that when he says homosexuality is a sin, he is judging them, even if he’s not treating them badly as a result. Likewise, to say you love your children “even if they are homosexual” implies that loss of love is the expected response to homosexuality and that he’s going above and beyond by not doing so.

  94. mattb says:

    @Fargus: Apologies.

    I didn’t realize you were addressing Boyd’s specific bringing up of OT Law in the way he did. I just get a bit tired of too many people hanging everything on Leviticus on both sides of the argument.

  95. @mantis:

    Let me clarify, I agree with the Christian concept that there are sins, that is that the concept is valid. I disagree as to what specifically is or is not a sin.

  96. mantis says:

    @Fargus:

    Y’ever read Slacktivist?

    Nope.

    Yes, I agree that Boyd seems to be more tolerant than most, but it’s awfully small-minded of you to imagine that he represents the pinnacle of how tolerant somebody who IDs as Christian can be.

    You can’t be much more tolerant without throwing much of the doctrine out the window. That’s been my basic point throughout this thread.

    And don’t get me wrong. I’m not really criticizing those who call themselves Christians but don’t believe much of the Bible. I think they are headed in the right direction; I just wish they would take that next step.

    How about this. I am a Christian. However, I don’t believe in God or Jesus or sin or heaven or hell or the ten commandments. I believe that as long as people aren’t hurting others, what they do is fine. I’ve “ID’d as a Christian.” Do you believe me?

  97. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Except that when he says homosexuality is a sin, he is judging them, even if he’s not treating them badly as a result.

    I think he is saying that it isn’t his judgment to make. He outsources that to the Bible, which clearly states that homosexual acts are sinful. You want him to pick and choose which sins are real, and which aren’t, and he clearly thinks he does not have the authority to do so.

    I agree with the Christian concept that there are sins, that is that the concept is valid.

    How is it valid? Sins are acts that violate the will of God. How can they be valid if there is or might be no God?

    What you are talking about is morality. Morality and sin are not synonymous.

  98. mattb says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    you seem to fail to understand that calling homosexuality a sin, is hitting people just as intimately, suggesting that their love is fundamentally deficient.

    I thought I acknowledged that above. If I didn’t I apologize.

    Based on my reading of Boyd, it’s clear that while he might see it as a sin, he also does not see sin as a black or white issue. Homosexuality != Murder (or any of the 11 major sins).

    Yes, I see how it’s hurtful for you to see homosexuality as sinful in any way or capacity. I can totally understand why you chose to reply in the way you did.

    I simply don’t think that responding to hurt by causing hurt is an effective strategy in this particular situation. Or ignoring the work that someone has done to come as far as he has. To @Fargus‘ point, I’m not suggesting that Boyd is “pinnacle of how tolerant somebody who IDs as Christian can be.” However, I do think that tolerance, in general, is something that is to be encouraged and cultivated, and in a case like this, as an outside observer, I felt your response did either.

    I also understand how you see things differently. And chances are that this is an issue which we will not agree on. 🙂

  99. george says:

    @Fargus:

    I didn’t mean to equate homosexuality with a crime (as I said in the next post, I don’t see homosexuality as being any different than hetrosexuality, its just impulses). I used crime because for me that was the most serious disappointment I’ve had with any of my children, and yet I don’t love the child any less for it – for another parent it might be sexuality, or career choice, or not providing grandchildren, or lifestyle.

    And while I don’t know any parents who disapprove of hetrosexuality, I know quite a few who disapprove of their hetrosexual children’s partner(s) – and yet who love the child anyway. And actually I know of quite a few who seriously disapprove of their children’s urge to run and play as young adults (when their parents think they should be setting down, getting a job, etc).

    My argument is just that I don’t believe that parental love is commonly conditional – that you love your child so long as they do A, B and C, or stop loving them because they do D. For parents to be disappointed in their their children is common, for them to love their children less for it is rare.

  100. mantis says:

    @Fargus:

    So why would it be wrong for Stormy to, as forcefully, state his opinion of that particular piece of Boyd’s worldview?

    It’s not. It’s wrong for Stormy to claim he knows how much Boyd loves his children.

    Moreover, why are we sitting here talking about how offensive Stormy has been to Boyd in expressing his opinion, without waiting for Boyd to come in and relate whether he was offended or not?

    Because I take offense at the notion that one can tell another that he doesn’t love his kids enough. It’s beyond the pale.

    Otherwise, we’re just having a back and forth discussion about theology, the concept of sin, and the validity of the Bible. No big deal, IMO. People disagree.

    And again, just to make myself absolutely clear, I think homosexuality is fabulous! I think the natural spectrum of human sexuality is fascinating and I am very much disturbed that in 2012 we still have people who wish to discriminate and/or inflict harm on people just for being who they are. I blame religion for this and I think we’d all be better off if as a society we abandoned ancient fairy tales about how humans came to be and how we should act.

    And while I think Boyd is a nice guy who seems to try to follow the teachings of another nice guy, he still believes in a stupid ancient fairy tale.

  101. @mantis:

    I think he is saying that it isn’t his judgment to make. He outsources that to the Bible, which clearly states that homosexual acts are sinful. You want him to pick and choose which sins are real, and which aren’t, and he clearly thinks he does not have the authority to do so.

    Yes, but then we just get a different level of indirection. Why did he choose to outsource it to The Bible and not, say, The Principia Discordia? Ultimately, the responsibility for his own judgements lie with himself

  102. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    Why did he choose to outsource it to The Bible and not, say, The Principia Discordia?

    Because he’s a Christian. Which brings me back to my main point that you are (or should be) arguing against Christianity in general.

  103. @mantis:

    Because he’s a Christian.

    Setting aside the circularity, I’d point out that it doesn’t necessarily follow. None of the versions of the Christian Creed I’m familiar with even mention the Bible, much less suggest that beliving it in its entirety is a necessary element of the faith.

  104. mantis says:

    @Stormy Dragon:

    None of the versions of the Christian Creed I’m familiar with even mention the Bible, much less suggest that beliving it in its entirety is a necessary element of the faith.

    While I admire the chutzpah of trying to separate the Bible from Christianity, you are making a rather poor (or uninformed) argument.

    The Nicene creed clearly states that the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets, and the longer, earlier versions specifically mention the Gospels.

    In any case, it matters little whether the creeds explicitly mention the Bible, as they are all directly drawn from the Gospels themselves. No Bible, no creed.

    And lets not forget that most of the creeds specifically note the authority of their respective churches. One cannot claim that the Apostle’s Creed defines Catholic Christianity without acknowledging that it recognizes the Church (and sin!), which teaches that homosexual acts are sinful.

    You don’t have Christian creeds without the Bible, and the creeds recognize the authority of their churches, which teach what is and is not sin, which they get from the Bible.

  105. mattb says:

    @mantis:You beat me to the Nicine Creed.

    In any case, it matters little whether the creeds explicitly mention the Bible, as they are all directly drawn from the Gospels themselves. No Bible, no creed.

    Further, it’s clear that reading the documents and dialogs that were generated around the creation of the creed that Biblical teachings were a key component. Heck this was all tied into the question of canonical texts.

    One cannot claim that the Apostle’s Creed defines Catholic Christianity without acknowledging that it recognizes the Church (and sin!), which teaches that homosexual acts are sinful.

    And it’s important to note that Catholic Christianity in this case is encompassing all of mainstream Christianity (Catholics, Protestants and Evangelicals).

  106. Fargus says:

    Point is, there are a lot of differing interpretations of the same bible. Are some of these, according to your standards, somehow more or less right than others on their own terms, leaving aside your own personal beliefs?

  107. RalfW says:

    Well said, sir.

  108. Boyd says:

    I don’t want to seem arrogant or disrespectful, but I hold my Christian beliefs as I do because others seem internally inconsistent to me. That’s why Mantis can articulate my position as well as he can (well, beyond his extensive knowledge of Biblical teachings). I strive to eliminate, or at least limit, any cognitive dissonance in my belief system.

  109. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    Are some of these, according to your standards, somehow more or less right than others on their own terms, leaving aside your own personal beliefs?

    Yes.

    Or rather, they can be evaluated on the consistency of their interpretations and their adherence to the text (as I keep saying).

    To your point, if an interpretation argues that the basis for considering homosexuality a sin is Leviticus, but then ignores the rest of Levitican law, then chances are its a flawed interpretation. Or it needs to have a good explanation of why it has maintained the laws against homosexual sex. And we then evaluate that second explanation along the same lines. And continue the process ad nauseum.

    Now it’s entirely possible to say that an extreme fundamentalist interpretation (a la Earth created in 7 literal days) is ultimately as valid as an extremely progressive interpretation. And at that point, it comes down to a personal preference as to which interpretation an individual chooses to follow.

    But this entire thing isn’t black-or-white.

    Not to mention that both interpretations have to exist within a larger living world.

    This is ultimately the struggle with any living foundational text. It’s true of the Torah. It’s true of the Bible. It’s true of the Koran. It’s true of the US Constitution.

  110. Fargus says:

    Boyd:

    Do you practice the other OT laws? Why or why not?

    As far as the internal consistency point, what of the inconsistencies present, or instance, in the various gospel accounts? How do you reconcile those?

  111. Fargus says:

    Mattb: as far as claims that Some interpretive frameworks are more valid than others, there’s not a lot of objectivity to that claim, as it must necessarily be passed through the filter of your understanding of legitimacy. I’m fundamentally uncomfortable with some trying to act like objective arbiters of a very subjective, contentious text. It’s not like opposition to homosexuality is a founding creed of almost any Christian faith (Westbrook baptist church notwithstanding), but the way some of you are talking, it’s a litmus test whose absence in someone claiming to be Christian makes their self identification suspect.

  112. mattb says:

    @Boyd:

    I strive to eliminate, or at least limit, any cognitive dissonance in my belief system.

    To that point, there are (at least) two methods of eliminating cognitive dissonance.

    The first option is blind faith — that’s the stuff of dogma, which tends to get people in trouble. It’s the mark of Fundamentalism at its worst.

    The other option is through struggling with what you have at hand, and trying to find that coherence. And that’s often a very tough road. Its also the far better one to take.

  113. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    Some interpretive frameworks are more valid than others, there’s not a lot of objectivity to that claim, as it must necessarily be passed through the filter of your understanding of legitimacy.

    Correct, which I have laid out numerous times. And to be clear, it isn’t just my framework of legitimacy, it’s the hermenutic framework. And to a large degree it can be objectively judged. You can point out bad interpretation (hell there is even bad deconstruction).

    For example, we spent quite a bit of time point out everything that is wrong with Gipson’s interpretation of the Bible.

    Where things are more difficult is when you have, generally speaking, two opposing interpretations of more or less equal quality. And that’s where the subjective aspect enters in.

    It’s not like opposition to homosexuality is a founding creed of almost any Christian faith (Westbrook baptist church notwithstanding), but the way some of you are talking, it’s a litmus test whose absence in someone claiming to be Christian makes their self identification suspect.

    Really?! Yikes! I thought all this time that I’ve been arguing the opposite (or at least opening a space for the opposite to be true).

    Just to be clear, I believe that it’s possible to be Christian and believe that homosexuality is not a sin based on scripture (the New Testament). However, I take issue with the idea that you can simply believe that homosexuality isn’t a sin without working your way through the scripture to that answer. Cherry picking the bible in the name of tolerance is almost as bad as cherry picking it in the name of intolerance. Or rather, I should say it’s as intellectually dishonest.

    To Mantis’ point, that begins a process of evacuating the faith of all meaning. I’d much rather have someone call themselves an Atheist or Secular Humanist than practice empty Christianity.

  114. mattb says:

    @Fargus:

    I’m fundamentally uncomfortable with some trying to act like objective arbiters of a very subjective, contentious text.

    You should be.

    But that is not to say that you can’t, to some degree, objectively evaluate competing interpretations. Or that all interpretations are equally accurate.

    There are good interpretations. There are mediocre interpretations. There are bad interpretations. And there are completely off base interpretations with no grounding in reality.

  115. Ben Wolf says:

    @mattb: While you’re here I have another source if you’re still interested in various economic readings. Scott Fullwiler is one of the top experts on money in the world, in my opinion.

    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/cf_dev/AbsByAuth.cfm?per_id=444041

  116. @mantis:

    The Nicene creed clearly states that the Holy Spirit spoke through the prophets, and the longer, earlier versions specifically mention the Gospels.

    In any case, it matters little whether the creeds explicitly mention the Bible, as they are all directly drawn from the Gospels themselves. No Bible, no creed.

    Pointing to the Nicene Creed doesn’t really do much for your argument that biblical inerrancy is an essential part of Christianity, given that there was no official canon at the timeof the Council of Nicea which wrote the creed. The first suggestion we have that there is a specific list of books that formed the authorized canon of the church would not be written until more than forty years later and the first offical canon was not approved for almost four centuries at the Quinisext Council (which, it should be noted, the Roman Catholic Church refuses to accept as a valid synod to this day).

  117. mattb says:

    @Ben Wolf: Thanks! That’s the sort of OT posting that I appreciate.

    @Stormy Dragon: Interesting facts on the Council of Nicea. I had misremembered that the early Canon was established (and a number of the apocryphal gospels were declared so).

  118. Boyd says:

    @Fargus: This is a subject that is hard enough to discuss face-to-face and surrounded by reference materials; conversation through writing makes it tremendously harder, and worse yet, I am by no means a Biblical scholar. I’m a layman, imperfect in my faith and my understanding, but constantly striving to improve.

    All that being said, to your question (one of them, at least):

    Do you practice the other OT laws? Why or why not?

    I practice many Old Testament laws, but not precisely because they’re Old Testament laws. And I’ll be completely honest and say that I don’t have a comprehensive algorithm for saying “Yes” to OT Law A and “No” to OT Law B.

    The closest I come to a “decision tree,” if you will, to guide me are Jesus’s two commandments from Matthew 27:37-40:

    37 Jesus replied, ” ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

    So the Old Testament laws are not my laws. I believe that violating some of them would be a sin, because they run afoul of the two great commandments above. Imprecise, I know, but short of stepping through all the laws in the Old Testament and tossing them into various bins (and I’m not certain that I could successfully complete that exercise), that’s as close as I can get in this venue.

  119. Boyd says:

    @Fargus:

    As far as the internal consistency point, what of the inconsistencies present, or instance, in the various gospel accounts? How do you reconcile those?

    Study, prayer, conversation with fellow believers with similar or superior knowledge, prayer and faith. And prayer.

  120. Boyd says:

    Hmm…blew the formatting on that one.

  121. Boyd says:

    @mattb:

    To that point, there are (at least) two methods of eliminating cognitive dissonance.

    Well, I’d say it’s more like a spectrum of approaches to reconciling apparent inconsistencies, and to my mind, no single method is always the right one. And sometimes, for some things, faith is all we have; such is the nature of this belief system (See? It’s right there in the phrase: “belief system.”).

    I’m imperfect in my understanding, and sometimes I have nothing to rely upon but faith. But there are things we can understand, and we owe it to God and to ourselves to put forth the effort to understand what we can.

  122. Fargus says:

    @Boyd:

    I’m at a loss to understand which of those two commandments is violated by gay people having a loving relationship with one another.

  123. Boyd says:

    @Fargus: The first one, as indicated by Romans 1:24-27:

    24 So God abandoned them to do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other’s bodies. 25 They traded the truth about God for a lie. So they worshiped and served the things God created instead of the Creator himself, who is worthy of eternal praise! Amen. 26 That is why God abandoned them to their shameful desires. Even the women turned against the natural way to have sex and instead indulged in sex with each other. 27 And the men, instead of having normal sexual relations with women, burned with lust for each other. Men did shameful things with other men, and as a result of this sin, they suffered within themselves the penalty they deserved.

  124. Boyd says:

    And Matt, the above verses are why I believe that you’re mistaken about the sinful nature of homosexual behavior. I don’t love anyone any less, be it my son, my daughter, Stormy, or anyone else, because of their sinful acts (Lord knows I have enough sinful acts of my own to keep me from worrying about anyone else’s), but verse 27 unequivocally calls homosexual behavior a sin, it seems to me.

  125. Ben Wolf says:

    @Boyd: Hace you considered the Bible might be wrong? It’s rife wth errors and opinions inserted by its authors.

  126. Robert in SF says:

    @Boyd:

    Joining the party late here, but did want to weigh in. The points of interest to me are those wherein the commenters ask why persons who view homosexuality as sin -a special, double secret probation sin, apparently- so intensely that they seem to focus a lot on it, but they don’t view other admonitions in the Bible of less inflammatory nature with the same fierce aggression, or passion, for civil laws to outlaw expressions of those other sins…In other words, why do you think you need to outlaw or restrict gays’/lesbians’ equal protection under the law while people who wear cotton and rayon aren’t punished, or eating cheeseburgers and other mixing of meat/milk (to pick a view examples from the OT)?

    Why the inconsistency in interpretation and application? Why the legalistic gymnastics to excuse other “sins” of the same admonition level in the Bible? Could it be that your are forming God in Man’s image (putting your own ickiness with teh gayz into God’s Word)?

    Also, I am fascinated with the semantic and legalistic manipulations and spin, that just falls apart when it comes to applying the same sort of context and historical viewpoint to scripture supposedly around gays. For example, about Leviticus laws and how some apply now and some don’t…and all the rationale from research, and study, and references, to support the various decisions about what’s still current and why the others aren’t…

    For Boyd’s reference, notice he starts the scriptural reference at Romans 1:24-27, but does not include the prior verses for context, either spiritual or historical…and he (and others who use this section) certainly doesn’t continue on to the following verses for full inclusion of those who are also tarred with this same brush…read on and see if you can intuit why not…

    18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

    21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.

    24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

    26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.

    So the lead-in verses explain why the persons were abandoned by God (turned over) and as such were taken even further into what was unnatural for them, to turn from their nature and begin to practice what was previously foreign…that came after, as a result of their sins, not as part of their sins….Too subtle?

    And to the following verses in reference, notice that the fundamentalists aren’t trying to outlaw equal protection under the civil law for those other activities deemed here to be sinful: every kind of wickedness, evil, greed, depravity, envy, strife, deceit, gossips, slanderers, insolent, arrogant and boastful; those who disobey their parents; loveless, merciless. Because then they would have to pretty much just show up to jail themselves, do not pass go, try as they might to collect $200.

    The Bible isn’t some casual rules-of-the-game reference book meant to be picked up, and certain section applied to a situation without thought. It is meant to be studied, contemplated, pray about, discussed, in toto, fullness and completeness with other scripture and with your conscience/soul/Holy Spirit guiding you for the gestalt of the message.

    As for Boyd in particular, I am not making any claims into what he believes, why, or how he came to believe it…just that the verse he quotes and the use of it is intellectually and spiritually dishonest in this manner. But I attribute no malice to him for it.

  127. mattb says:

    @Boyd:

    And Matt, the above verses [Romans 1:24-27:] are why I believe that you’re mistaken about the sinful nature of homosexual behavior.

    That’s what I figured Boyd — as I wrote above, the argument for Homosexuality as sin can be made without Levitican Law.

    I understand your interpretation and I respect it. As I mentioned towards the top of the thread, I do see a different reading of this section of Romans — in part from a further contextualization of the quote:

    From KJV Romans 1:18-31
    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness;
    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that [The Romans] are without excuse:
    21 Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened.
    22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
    23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
    24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
    25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.
    26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
    27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.
    28 And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient;
    29 Being filled with all unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers,
    30 Backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents,
    31 Without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful:
    32 Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    The thing that Paul is writing about is a Christian community in Rome — or rather I should say a former Christian Community — which has turned away from God, and in doing so, broken a number of core commandments. They had begun to see themselves as the equals of God (1:21-2) have begun to worship other idols — in particular the human body and animals (1:23). As such God gives them up to endless orgies, perversions, and various violations of the major commandments.

    Needless to say, God’s big beef is not so much with the activity, but what set off the activity.

    Still we need to tackle the question of the acts being done. As I said above, verses 29-32 list a wider range of bad behavior all stemming from the unrighteousness. When we deal with the two specific versus about same-sex relations (26-7) two things jump out that are worth considering. First is that the sex is happening as a form of pagan worship (note that later on “fornication” is also mentioned — Ritual/Temple Prostitution was a major issues that the early Church had to deal with), in other words we’re not necessarily dealing with traditional sex.

    More to the point, the larger issue is the violation of “nature.” Now one way of reading this is that any sort of homosexual activity is a violation of nature. This is the traditional reading. But given the growing evidence of homosexuality occurring naturally in other species,* and the evidence that, to invoke the Blessed Ga-Ga, people are “born this way” (Straight or Gay) then the greater issue one would argue is a Straight Person going against their nature (performing gay acts) in the worship of a pagan God.

    Again, I’m not saying that this is the only valid reading of this passage. And I acknoweldge that it can be read as you are reading it. To @Fargus‘ point, I would feel uncomfortable stating that my reading is more correct than your reading. That said, I am prepared to defend this as a valid reading.

    Hope you can at least see my point — even if we can’t agree on it. BTW, this has been a really great thread to participate in.


    * – One other point, the verses in question, I would argue contain the call in them to look at evidence in the natural world to assist in our interpretation of the text. Note:

    19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them.
    20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that [The Romans] are without excuse:

    Paul is writing here that we come to know God and his will through the ways it manifests within the world. So the presence of outwardly homosexual animals becomes a sort of proof that “nature” (that which is not created by the hand of intention of man) already includes Homosexual behavior.

  128. mattb says:

    @Robert in SF:

    As for Boyd in particular, I am not making any claims into what he believes, why, or how he came to believe it…just that the verse he quotes and the use of it is intellectually and spiritually dishonest in this manner.

    That’s going a little far. While it’s obvious that my interpretation of the text is closer to yours, I don’t think Boyd’s interpretation is fundamentally intellectually dishonest.

    To play devils advocate, there are a hell of a lot of unquestionably “sinful sins” listed in versus 29-32. If those were committed outside of worship of Pagan gods, they’d still be considered sins as well.

    BTW, @Fargus‘ this is what I mean by an honest/objective Hermenutic Interpretation — you need to be able to read the weaknesses in your own argument. I think that without violating my interpretive framework, and sticking with the text, you can give a strong reason for separating the violations of nature that Paul writes above from normal, loving, homosexual sex between two committed partners. But I can’t claim that you can’t find other arguments against it and stay intellectually consistent.

  129. Tillman says:

    Nitpick @Stormy Dragon:

    God’s word prexisted creation (“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”)

    “The Word” is meant to represent Jesus, not literally the laws of God set down in Torah. The Gospel of John was written with the aim of highlighting Jesus’s divinity, and in contrast to the other gospels is very philosophical in tone.

  130. Tillman says:

    Look, all I know is, academic Biblical textual criticism classes are good for the Christian soul. If your faith’s based on inerrancy, I’m so sorry for you, but if you don’t mind digging into the normal human morass of ambiguity when confronting historical documents, it can be a very revitalizing experience.

    It’s my firm belief churches should teach these classes to better educate the laity about their traditions and faith. In my experience, it’s the perfect cure for “empty” Christianity. It gives you a very real human story about what was going on when Jesus walked the planet, not to mention the political and cultural contexts of his time.

  131. grumpy realist says:

    Also given the fact that we’ve had a heck of a lot of editing as well. Stuff got inserted into Paul’s letters, the powers that be got rid of a lot of stuff they considered heretic (see Gospel of Mary Magdalene, etc.)

    What we’re dealing with is what managed to trickle down after at least a hundred of years of Church Fathers carrying out political back-stabbing and editing to provide justification for one’s own authority over the rest. Read St. Augustine: his screeds against the teachings of the Donatists are pure power politics because he doesn’t want their congregations to be the ones Christians in his area are going to–he wants them to be part of his own congregation. St. Augustine manages to win out, which it is why St. Augustine’s teachings have been accepted and the interpretations of the Donatists have been forgotten.

    You can gain inspiration from the Bible. But I think you have to be nuts to take it as the be-all and end-all of your thought and ethical system.

  132. grumpy realist says:

    P.S. And I still haven’t forgiven the Early Christian Fathers for what happened to Hypatia. And the damn idiot who lead up the mob was sanctified by the Catholic Church as a saint.

    “Christian” and “loving” my ass!

  133. mattb says:

    @Tillman:

    “The Word” is meant to represent Jesus, not literally the laws of God set down in Torah. The Gospel of John was written with the aim of highlighting Jesus’s divinity, and in contrast to the other gospels is very philosophical in tone.

    Thanks for bringing that up, I didn’t want to be the first one.

    The Gospel of John also provides one of the strongest rationals for why the Bible must be read allegorically and symbolically rather than literally.

    I appreciated the rest of your points as well. Admittedly I’m an academic of sorts, so I’m biased towards academic reading. But in general I think there’s a lot to be gained in approaching all texts with the tools of an academic.

  134. Fargus says:

    @mattb:

    I get what you’re saying about how a lot of different interpretive frameworks are valid, but some are objectively less valid than others. Boyd’s is one of those cases which I think is objectively less valid than yours. I am at a loss to understand how you can go on a very nice year about the context of the verses around what Boyd was quoting, and the contrast between the behavior described therein and the behavior condemned today by religious types, and then turn around and say that a reading that strips those verses from context and runs them through the lens of the 21st century is totally valid. Maybe you think it is totally valid, but you haven’t done the legwork of showing why that’s any more valid than yanking any other quote out of context.

  135. Boyd says:

    Maybe some of you think I should be defending the likes of Worley or Gipson. I don’t, and that should be patently obvious to anyone if they’ve read this thread.

    And Fargus, you’re free to believe whatever you want about me. I may be mistaken in my beliefs…actually, I’m undoubtedly mistaken in some of my beliefs. And whenever I discover that what I believe is in error, I admit that I’m mistaken and move to a new position.

    If you think I’m intellectually dishonest, that’s your privilege. I’ll let my writings here and elsewhere stand for anyone to evaluate my honesty.

  136. @Tillman:

    “The Word” is meant to represent Jesus, not literally the laws of God set down in Torah. The Gospel of John was written with the aim of highlighting Jesus’s divinity, and in contrast to the other gospels is very philosophical in tone.

    What exactly is meant by “The Word” varies from church to church. The one I went to growing up taught it was something akin to “Logos” in classical stoicism, the divine order underlying all of reality, and that this was the ultimate expression of “God’s Word”, not the Bible, which was a human approximation of the true word which, like all human things, is necessarily imperfect.

  137. Tillman says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Much better than the usual church teaching, I imagine. Although nowadays pastors have started really getting into the Greek; I hear “agape” thrown around a lot now and keep thinking they mean some sort of fruit.

  138. mattb says:

    @Fargus:
    I am not entirely sure what you are asking. Perhaps you can rephrase…

    If what you are asking is how I can defend Boyd’s interpretation while not subscribing to it, the answer is laid out in my explanation of my reading of Romans. As I note, if you place the emphasis in other areas or subscribe to a different understanding of what is meant by “Nature” you end up with a different readings. And I don’t necessarily think it’s simply the result of cherry picking the text.

    So, no, I don’t think Boyd is being intellectual dishonest.

    On the other hand, I think Gipson’s position can easily be demonstrated as intellectually dishonest, a bad interpretation, and a fundamental perversion of the bible.

  139. Janis Gore says:

    @mattb: I’m using your quotation of the KJV because it’s here.

    Something that’s missing in this discussion is a look at the last line of Rom 1:27:

    “… and receiving within their persons that recompence of their error which was meet.”

    Wouldn’t that indicate that it is not for us to judge, but for God?

  140. mattb says:

    @Janis Gore and that is why I can categorically say that Gipson’s interpretation is fundamentally flawed.

    Agree or disagree with Boyd, he’s not judging* in the same way that Gipson is. In fact, I take what Boyd says at face value — he sees the behavior as a sin (as he sees many of his own behaviors) but leaves the judging up to God. That’s not what Gipson and others are doing.

    Aside – While one can fall back on the idea that judgement is up to God, it’s also true that it is necessary for man to do some judgment. Hence it is perfectly ok to judge crimes — you can’t however judge how God will receive them.

  141. Fargus says:

    I’m simply asking how you can say Boyd’s reading is valid as another interpretation when part of your difference of opinion isn’t that you look at the same words differently, but that you take the verses in their full context, which is something Boyd has not done in here. He may have a reading, in full context, that preserves his view that the passage unambiguously condemns homosexuality as we understand it in 2012, but he has emphatically not done that work here, and defending his biblical interpretation just because he seems like a good guy (and he does!) seems totally backwards to me.

  142. Boyd says:

    @Fargus: How about the context of the whole Bible, Fargas? In no place in scripture is homosexual behavior addressed as anything but prohibited. An additional New Testament example is:

    1 Corinthians 6:9b-11

    9 … Don’t fool yourselves. Those who indulge in sexual sin, or who worship idols, or commit adultery, or are male prostitutes, or practice homosexuality, 10 or are thieves, or greedy people, or drunkards, or are abusive, or cheat people—none of these will inherit the Kingdom of God. 11 Some of you were once like that. But you were cleansed; you were made holy; you were made right with God by calling on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. — NLT

    Here’s another:

    1 Timothy 1:8-11

    8 We know that the law is good when used correctly. 9 For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. 10 The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching 11 that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God. — NLT

    Contrast that with, for instance, chapter 5 of Proverbs. I won’t quote the whole thing due to its length, but I don’t think anyone can find it controversial that the Bible addresses heterosexual behavior inside a marriage favorably.

    And you’re completely correct that the validity of my interpretation of the Bible shouldn’t be based on me; it should stand on its own. It’s quite clear, and I think indisputable, that the Bible addresses homosexual behavior negatively without exception, and often calls it a sin. While I haven’t addressed the Romans reference, it seems to me to be an untenable stretch to say that something is a sin for someone who turns their back on God, but it’s okay for a Christian. I don’t see how anyone can come to that conclusion.

    But I’m not going to be so arrogant as to call someone else intellectually dishonest for a differing interpretation of the Bible. As with all else, that’s for God to judge.

  143. @Boyd:

    I must confess, that passage from 1 Corinthians is one of the passages that bothers me (and has effected my views of this question over time).

    Consider the list: sexual sin, worshiping idols, committing adultery, being male prostitutes, practicing homosexuality, being thieves, being greedy, being a drunkard, being abusive, cheating people

    Contemporary Christians do not, for example, get as upset over adultery (which, granted, they do condemn) or other sexual sins (e.g., fornication) as they do homosexuality.

    Even moreso: greed is by no means treated the same as homosexuality.

    Why is homosexuality set aside as worthy of special horror?

    I think a lot of it has to do with cultural views of certain actions. I think this can be linked to other Pauline writings about women (such as the one that states women should not speak up in church). I have come to the point wherein I cannot interpret the Bible as a perfect and timeless text that was not influenced by the culture of the day.

  144. Specifically, 1 Corinthians 14:33-35:

    34 Women[a] should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. 35 If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.[b]

    And then:

    1 Timothy 2:

    11 A woman[a] should learn in quietness and full submission. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[b] she must be quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. 15 But women[c] will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

    This is not how women are treated in Christian churches, save in the most traditional. Things have changed on how women are viewed. I can’t help but chalk this up to cultural shifts.

  145. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: And therein lies the problem with being a Christian, and yet rejecting a portion of Christianity’s sacred book. I don’t think we can pick and choose what we like out of it.

    Sure, it’s reasonable for a non-Christian to say “The Bible is correct in this instance, this is a good principle to follow, but this thing on homosexuality? Nope, dead wrong.” They can do that because it’s not the guiding document of their faith.

    For a Christian, though? I believe we have to accept all of it, including the parts we don’t like and the parts we don’t fully understand, and pray for God’s help in reconciling those sections which are difficult for us.

    And to circle back around to the men who were the subject of your original post, it looks to me like they’re not giving much credence to Jesus’s instruction on judgment or even forgiveness. While I don’t think someone else’s homosexual behavior requires us to forgive them (God’s job, right?), at the very least the principle of forgiveness seems to undermine their own behavior towards homosexuality.

  146. Boyd says:

    Oh, and sorry, I failed to address a portion of your latest comment. I agree with you 100% that many Christians are unreasonably and incorrectly focused on the sin of homosexuality, as though it were some sort of “special sin.” It’s not, and it seems to me they need to spend a bit more time on the scripture I mentioned earlier in Matthew 7:

    1 “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. 2 For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

    3 “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? 4 How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? 5 Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” — NLT

    I quoted the scripture merely to scratch my own itch for completeness; I know you’re familiar with the verses.

  147. @Boyd:

    And therein lies the problem with being a Christian, and yet rejecting a portion of Christianity’s sacred book. I don’t think we can pick and choose what we like out of it.

    […]

    For a Christian, though? I believe we have to accept all of it, including the parts we don’t like and the parts we don’t fully understand, and pray for God’s help in reconciling those sections which are difficult for us.

    I understand where you are coming from. It was my point of view for many decades. The thing that I have come to, however, is that Christians don’t “accept all of it”–the above quoted verses underscore this fact. Even at highly conservative Southern Baptist churches the above verses are not followed. They are largely ignored (save as a basis for forbidding female head pastors).

    This is either because they are ignoring the Bible or it is because they are acknowledging, even if they are only doing so subconsciously, that things have changed.

    Part of the point of people like those quoted in the post: they are trying to literally interpret and apply the Bible. To do so leads to American Taliban territory. As I noted above, the OT is a harsh place: and even if one accepts that things like the dietary laws were done away with the new covenant, the moral laws were not. And yet, we ignore a lot of them (hence the quotation of Leviticus as per above while ignoring the death penalty part).

    Even aside from the law, the OT is full of genocidal behavior with the imprimatur of God. It is violence sanctioned against the unbeliever because they are unbelievers–including infant children. Part (and it is a a complex issue) that caused my own crisis of faith is that if you read the OT and pay attention it sounds a whole lot like contemporary jihadist rhetoric. Just because it happened thousands of years ago doesn’t whitewash that fact. I find it rather disturbing, especially if it is considered not stories but history.

  148. @Boyd:

    For a Christian, though? I believe we have to accept all of it, including the parts we don’t like and the parts we don’t fully understand, and pray for God’s help in reconciling those sections which are difficult for us.

    Why?

  149. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: There’s so much to discuss here, and I’m not sure that I have the time or energy on Memorial Day to do justice to a complete response. So just some quick hits.

    Just because many people interpret the Bible incorrectly doesn’t undermine it’s truth or value. As you may know, I’m a Southern Baptist myself, at least in the sense of being a member of a Southern Baptist church. When these topics arise, I almost inevitably have to push back against the majority, especially among my older friends.

    In my experience, the people who strongly tout Old Testament prohibitions, and especially punishments, fall into two groups: outspoken “leaders,” both secular and non-secular, whose self-identity and/or profession requires that they talk loudly and definitively, and the other group is composed of folks who haven’t spent much time studying the Bible (the groups often overlap). I’m not happy about either group, but they don’t define me or my faith.

    The Bible definitely tells us that God was wrathful in his vengeance against the faithless before He sent Jesus to redeem us. It’s pretty unpleasant to consider many of the things that God commanded. Did keeping the Israelites’ faith pure justify wiping out the existing population? While I would have a hard time coming to that conclusion on my own, I’m not God (by a long shot). I accept God’s judgment, even when I don’t completely understand it.

  150. @Boyd:

    I accept God’s judgment, even when I don’t completely understand it.

    Here’s my problem (or, at least, one of them): I am no longer convinced that what is being taught is necessarily “God’s judgment” but, rather, is either God’ judgment as filtered by that of men, or, perhaps, even just men’s judgment straight up.

    The Bible definitely tells us that God was wrathful in his vengeance against the faithless before He sent Jesus to redeem us. It’s pretty unpleasant to consider many of the things that God commanded

    And yet, we are also taught that God does not change. This strikes we are a contradictory situation.

    I have increasingly found it difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile the notion that “God is love” and just but he also can condemn infants to slaughter because their parents had the wrong religious beliefs (and said parents may have not have known any different or had the chance to know otherwise). The advent of Christ doesn’t solve that problem.

    And don’t get me started on the implications of Cavlinism (which has a substantial presence in the Southern Baptist church and in contemporary evangelical circles, although it isn’t called such).

  151. Boyd says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Good point, Stormy. I’ll elaborate briefly (but I want to do other things today, so I’m going to try to stop here).

    If you want to define yourself as a Christian that doesn’t accept the Bible in its entirety as the document of your faith, knock yourself out. I’m not the one to tell you your wrong. I disagree pretty strongly, but I’m not omniscient, so you may be right.

    My problem with your approach is that if I get to pick the parts I like out of the Bible while rejecting the parts I don’t like, then the Bible is just an interesting book of history and moral teachings. That would make it indistinguishable from, say, the writings of “Dr Laura” Schlessinger. In other words, not of much use to me.

    But again, I’m not calling you out or telling you that you’re wrong, other than that I disagree with you. You’re not what I consider to be a Christian, but it’s not up to me to make that determination. I can only decide for myself.

  152. Plus, there is the problem that God created the whole system in the first place, which creates its own set of justice problems.

  153. @Boyd:

    If you want to define yourself as a Christian that doesn’t accept the Bible in its entirety as the document of your faith, knock yourself out.

    I would note: it is possible to accept the document as the document of one’s faith without treating it as inerrant and a perfect recounting of history. There are certainly mainline protestant denominations that do not treat the book the way the SBC does. Even the Catholics don’t treat the way that US fundamentalists do–i.e., the scripture is not the final word, but that Church’s is.

    Once one decides, for example, that Genesis is not about 7 literal days, the door is open to consider if the stories of Jonah and Job aren’t fables rather than real events (which is why, of course, so many fundamentalists inveigh against evolution).

  154. Boyd says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Okay, maybe just one more comment today.

    One does not have to believe that the King James Version of the Bible is the one and only true English-language scripture, without allegory or metaphor, to accept the Bible as God’s guide for Christians. That’s a false choice, made worse by literalists who have taken it to untenable extremes.

    As background, I spent 20 years working as an Arabic linguist. While I don’t make any particular claim to competency in that field, I did learn a thing or two about translations, and, more importantly, how difficult it is to accurately convey someone’s meaning in one language to someone else in a different language. I won’t even address the “over several millennia” part.

    Some things are dead-simple to translate. Others (including allegory, metaphors, figures of speech, cultural references, etc.) can be pretty demanding. That’s just reality, and unless God chooses to produce a magic book that’s 100% understandable to everyone in their own language, this is just a reality that we have to deal with.

  155. @Boyd:

    You’re not what I consider to be a Christian

    I’m not what I consider to be a Christian, since I reject the core tennants of the religion (basically, I’m not willing to believe that a man once came back to life after being dead for three days without significantly more evidence than I have available).

    But the thing is, you already DO pick the parts of the Bible you like and reject the parts you don’t.

    If you were Catholic, you’d think all the deuterocanonical books were the inerrant word of God. Since you’re Southern Baptist, you don’t.

    Martin Luther thought Hebrews, James, Jude and Revelation are not a proper part of the Bible.

    Hippolytus of Rome thought The Acts of Paul were orthodox, even though they when the Bible was later officially cannonized, that book was left out.

    The Codex Sinaiticus, one of the oldest collections of the scripture we have (and believed to have been one of the original Bibles comissioned by Constantine), includes the Shepherd of Hermas and the Epistle of Barnabas, both of which were later eliminated.

    There was, prior to the formation of the Christian Church, a great deal of debate over whether various books of the old testament were authentic, including the Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, and Esther, and in some cases even books like Proverbs and Ezekiel.

    Even if you believe at somepoint God seized control of various humans and forced them to take dictation of texts that were perfect in every word, we’ve have milennias of editting since then that have constantly added, removed, rearranged, translated, and otherwise mangled those texts such that I don’t see how you can argue the English Bible you hold in your hand now is the one true, perfect, and complete recording of God’s word.

    And especially when your only reason for making that assertion seems to be “Well, that’s what I believe, because that’s what I believe.”

  156. Fargus says:

    Boyd,

    Have you addressed Steven’s point about the prescribed treatment of women in the bible? Do the verses he quoted accurately describe your feelings and actions about how women should be and are treated in your church? If so, I think it’s kind of horrible, but bravo for intellectual consistency. But if not, then it seems clear that you’re quite comfortable with picking and choosing, no?

  157. Boyd says:

    @Fargus: First, I have to protest the pejorative tenor to your question, Fargas. You make it sound more like female circumcision or requiring burqas or prohibiting women from driving than merely not speaking in a worship service.

    That being said, I admit that the admonition in these verses makes me uncomfortable. I can only deal with it through prayer, study and meditation to reconcile my instinct with Paul’s instruction. And I truly thank you and Steven for bringing it up, because it’s a part of my faith that I need to address, and your questioning has been the catalyst for that.

  158. Fargus says:

    I don’t mean to nitpick, but it’s Fargus, not Fargas. The name is right there on my posts.

    If you read anything pejorative into that, I apologize, because it wasn’t intended. I’m genuinely interested. I find your explanation (other people treat women worse!) wildly unsatisfactory, though.

  159. @Boyd:

    In re: Burqas, I would note the following passage from 1 Corinthians 11. It is not about the full veil, but is in the same traditional as both the burqa and the hijab. There are still traditional Christian denominations wherein the women wear either a small heacovering (it looks to me like a handkerchief) or a full scarf identical to a hijab.

    I bring this us not to nitpick. This passage, and the ones quoted above, have played a role in my thinking on these issues. Because they illustrate that either a) the contemporary church in various manifestation are, in fact, ignoring scriptural dictates or, b) are, in fact, picking and choosing commands based on cultural evolution (or, perhaps, some other alternative). However, both a and b have rather significant implications.

    I have heard some rationalization on theses matters that I find wholly unsatisfactory, but I will leave it for now.

    Here are the verses:

    4 Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. 5 But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head.

    7 A man ought not to cover his head,[b] since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.

  160. mattb says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: On the issue of approaching the Epistles, drawing upon Lutheran Intellectual traditions, my feeling has been that commands within them are always superseded by material within the Gospels. So the first place to always go for guidance is to the words and actions of Christ, and then from there draw context, first from Epistles and then, if necessary, from the OT.

    To that point, Christ was far more progressive in his dealings with Women and Children than Paul and the writers of the other Epistles. Going to the Gospels, we also know that that his disciples had a habit of being overly concerned with upholding the rules and traditions. In particular there are a number of examples of their restricting access to Christ only to be chastised for those actions when they were discovered.

    Given the profound role that Mary and Martha played in his life, as well as the countless other women he elevates as symbols of true faith (along with other outsiders) I can only wonder what he might have thought about the idea that only men can be heard during worship.

  161. TonyW says:

    @Jay: Jesus is silent on the issue.

  162. grumpy realist says:

    @mattb: Well, there’s also the fact that anything said differently might have been edited out. There’s pretty good auxiliary evidence that in early christianity, some women acted as bishops. Given the attitude that the Early Christian Fathers had about women, do you really think they would have left a gospel in providing authority by Jesus to allow women religious leaders?

    Christians are working off a set of texts mangled and edited to support the successful religious power structure. I’d read it with a very large grain of salt.