29 May 2007

Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil (Part One)

You may not be charismatic enough to win verbal debates with religious hetero-fascists, but you can always trump them in writing! It's relatively easy to do. Coherent writing, after all, requires a certain amount of intelligent thought, and that's something a lot of these nutty preachers are incapable of! Even those who are capable of intelligent thought don't use it to support their anti-Gay positions. Bigotry is the antithesis of intelligence, after all!

There's no intelligent way to promote ignorance. The only way to accomplish it is to fall back on lies, distortions and ad hominem attacks! When you've got the truth on your side, you've definitely got an edge in a fight with a religious bigot. However, that's not enough! You've got to (1) know what the truth is, (2) know which Scriptural citations prove the truth, and (3) know how to use those citations to effectively discredit your opponent.

To illustrate what I mean, I'm posting a letter here that I just emailed to the producers of "Tony Brown's Journal". It's an African-American issues forum that airs weekly on public television (PBS). Of late, host Tony Brown has been featuring Right Wing Black ministers on his show. They discuss the church's role in today's Black community. They also discuss doctrine, and as you'd expect, conversations frequently turn to the "sin" of homosexuality and how the church should address it. Washington DC's Bishop Harry Jackson, Jr. was Brown's most recent guest; you may remember him as one of the "Four Evil Kings" I recently posted about!

You'd best believe that the good Bishop really "showed his ass", as we say in the Black community! He claimed that Scripture expressly forbids Lesbian and Gay marriage ceremonies. He imposed a homosexual connotation on certain words translated from ancient languages. He likened LGBT folk to prostitutes! In short, he put his own evil twist on the same set of Fundamentalist talking points we've heard from the likes of James Dobson, Pat Robertson, D. James Kennedy and the late Jerry Falwell.

Well, I believe in equal opportunity knucklehead-bashing! If Black or Latino preachers decide they want to be hatemongers, they deserve the same treatment White hatemongers rate. I'll be happy to sink my Stuffed Animal fangs into their brown posteriors with all the ferocity I attack pink posteriors with!

Even before Tony Brown's show had signed off, I was at my computer typing up my objections to what had been said. Harry Jackson is one of these Bible bigots who's so confident in his ability to distort Scripture, he's arrogant! He thinks it's enough to just cite a verse and paraphrase it. He doesn't actually quote the text. As you'll see, I made sure there was plenty of pertinent quoted Scripture in my letter!

When responding to false prophets in writing, it's important to both cite and quote the text of Bible verses. You never want your readers to think you're trying to put something over on them; explain a Biblical passage, but reproduce it, too, so they can judge your interpretation for themselves. A working knowledge of the Bible, particularly those parts that pertain to homosexual conduct, is crucial! That's how you can catch preachers in a lie as soon as you hear them tell it! You don't have to wonder about whether this or that wild assertion is true or not, because you already know.

It's also important to expose the Bishop Jacksons of the world as false prophets. Do so in no uncertain terms! Bear down on their obvious ideological bias! Call them on their blatant political partisanship! Yank the covers off their un-Christian behavior! Tell the truth and shame the Devil! Now observe how I, the very modestly equipped Stuffed Animal, undertook the task:

Dear Mr. Brown,

On your Memorial Day weekend telecast, you hosted Conservative Bishop Harry Jackson. This man is fast becoming notorious among Lesbian and Gay Christians for his virulent Bible bigotry. To be sure, he made some outrageous anti-Gay statements on your show, distorting Scripture in the process. Unfortunately, this is an all-too-common tactic of the religious Right Wing; they have no shame when it comes to twisting and misquoting Bible verses! There's an urgent need to refute the kind of corrupt theology Bishop Jackson practices and, with your indulgence, I'd like to do so right now. It takes some detailed explanation to clarify texts that are so widely misquoted, so please bear with me. I'll try to make my comments brief. Let me address just five of the most scurrilous points he made:

1. That Bible scripture explicitly forbids same-gender marriage.

There is no such explicit prohibition! While you can reasonably infer from Scripture that the institution of marriage was meant to accomodate the coupling of men with women, you cannot infer that loving commitments between people of the same gender are forbidden. In fact, Scripture indicates otherwise! Look at the Covenant established between David and Jonathan in the first book of Samuel:

1 SAMUEL 18: 1
. . . the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul . . . then Jonathan made a Covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.

1 SAMUEL 20: 17
Jonathan made David swear again by his love for him, for he loved him as he loved his own life.

Right Wing theologians deny it, but the Biblical narrative clearly shows that David and Jonathan's relationship was erotic in nature:

1 SAMUEL 20: 30
Then Saul's anger was kindled against Jonathan(his son). He said to him: "You son of a perverse, rebellious woman! Do I not know that you have chosen (David) the son of Jesse to your own shame, and to the shame of your mother's nakedness?"

2 SAMUEL 1: 25, 26
(David sang) How the mighty have fallen in the midst of battle! Jonathan lies slain upon your high places. I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan, greatly beloved were you to me! Your love was wonderful, passing the love of women.

Biblical scholars have confirmed that the phrase "shame of your mother's nakedness" used in the context of the above-quoted verse refers to genitalia (see The New Oxford Annotated Bible). Here, King Saul is accusing his son of having a sexual interest in David! The unmistakably erotic phrase "passing the love of women" is self-explanatory.

Now it may be, as I believe, that the spiritual nature of unions between men and women differs from that of unions between two men or two women. It may well be that "marriage" is not the proper word for Lesbian and Gay couplings. However, that hardly means Gay couplings don't deserve the same legal protections that heterosexual ones get! Nor does it mean religious leaders should impose their subjective Scriptural interpretations on secular law; and it defintely doesn't mean that they're free to create an explicit Biblical prohibition against same-gender marriage where none exists!

2. That the Ten Commandments' prohibition against adultery condemns homosexual conduct.

It doesn't! Here are the Commandments:

EXODUS 20: 3-17
1. You shall have no other Gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in Heaven above or that is on the Earth beneath, or that is in the water uder the Earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them . . .
3. You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God . . .
4. Remember the Sabbath Day, and keep it Holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother . . .
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house (or) your neighbor's wife, or . . . anything that belongs to your neighbor.

Adultery is sexual infidelity in marriage. As you know, the vast majority of Gay people can't legally marry! Of course, there are homosexual women and men who marry heterosexual partners. They do this either in a misguided attempt to "cure" themselves, or in order to meet cultural expectations. Some of them commit adultery, and some of the few who are legally married to same-gender partners no doubt do so as well. This is sinful. However, the vast majority of married partners who commit adultery are heterosexual! The Seventh Commandment applies equally to them. The sin of adultery has nothing to do with sexual orientation! However, the sin of false witness almost certainly has bearing on the following assertion made by Bishop Jackson:

3. That ancient temple prostitution parallels modern homosexual status, and that all male temple prostitutes were homosexual.

There's no proof that all male temple prostitutes were homosexual, and the Bishop knows it! Some of them undoubtedly were, but intelligent people know that prostitutes come in all manner of sexual orientations. There are Lesbian hookers and heterosexual male hustlers who ply their trade with men as well as women. They sleep with whoever can pay their asking price. Sexual orientation is irrelevant to what they do! The practice is like a job for them, and there's no emotional attachment. Homosexual love, on the other hand, is an emotional attachment! It can only be experienced by Lesbians, Gay men and Bisexual persons. Homosexual status is not synonymous with prostitution! To date, we haven't seen any reputable study concluding that all or most homosexual folk are members of the sex trade. Factual evidence being what it is, I find it highly unlikely that we ever will.

4. That failure to worship God properly leads to homosexual conduct.

This was a contention of Paul the Apostle, as recorded in his famous letter to early Roman church leaders. Here's the passage Bishop Jackson cited:

ROMANS 1: 18-27
For though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened . . . they exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling a mortal human being, or birds, or four-footed animals, or reptiles . . . for this reason, God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural, and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another.

What Paul argues here is that God causes people to participate in homosexual acts as punishment for idolatry! In no other Scripture do we find this bizarre premise. I submit that Paul was expressing his own highly subjective opinion. Is it so unthinkable that an Apostle could be mistaken? Not unless you ignore the fact that he was human like you and me!

Somebody should ask the Bishop who he worships: God or the Apostle Paul? He would no doubt respond by saying that everything in the Bible is true. He'd argue that the Bible is the direct word of God, and that the Apostles were vehicles for His word; but should God's word change depending on which vehicle is expressing it? Paul's letter to the Galatian churches reveals that the Apostles disagreed among themselves on doctrinal points:

GALATIANS 2: 11-13
. . . when (the Apostle) Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood self-condemned; for until certain people came from (the Apostle) James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But after they came, he drew back and kept himself separate for fear of the circumcision faction; and the other Jews joined him in this hypocrisy, so that even (the Apostle) Barnabas was led astray . . .

So they were imperfect vehicles at best! As a Bible scholar, Bishop Jackson ought to know this already. Don't the Gospels repeatedly show us how, during Jesus Christ's lifetime, their faith in Him constantly fell short? How could anyone familiar with the Gospel narrative attribute infallibility to the Apostles? Accordingly, since their writings appear in the Bible, how could anyone consider Scripture infallible?

What we call the Bible did not exist in Biblical times! It is neither the direct word of God, nor is it inerrant. Bible scripture is man's interpretation (and re-interpretation over many centuries) of God's word. It reflects humankind's biases and limited understanding of what God does. The aforementioned passage from Romans illustrates those limitations. Think about it: If homosexuality is an abomination to God, why would God cause people to practice it? And if God does punish idolatry by imposing homosexual desire, as Paul claims, wouldn't Jesus Christ have included such an important fact in His own teachings? Why didn't He? And why don't His teachings support the following doctrinal points made in Paul's letters:

. . . I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard or robber.

Doesn't this description encompass many of the people that Jesus Christ associated with in his lifetime?

Women should be silent in the churches! For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.

Wasn't it women who were first told to spread the news of the Savior's resurrection? Isn't it true that His male disciples lacked faith and did not believe?

Clearly, the Apostle Paul sometimes deviated from the teachings of Jesus Christ! He did it often enough that Simon Peter is recorded as having said of his letters, there are some things in them hard to understand (2 Peter 3:16). Yet Paul's Conservative teachings made him the Apostle most favored by early Church leaders. This explains why so many of his letters ended up in the New Testament. However, this ideological favoritism did not and does not make Paul the ultimate authority on Christian doctrine! Jesus Christ is the ultimate authority, as He Himself confirmed in Matthew 23:10: You have but one instructor, the Messiah.

"Tell The Truth And Shame The Devil" continues with Part Two.