01 May 2007

WMMs: Weapons of Mass Misinformation (Part One)

Not long ago, I blogged about an organization called Faith In America, which purports to do Christian advocacy on behalf of Lesbians and Gay men. Their latest effort is a billboard campaign which excerpts and radically reinterprets Bible scripture. These billboards, which imply that Ruth and Naomi were Lesbian lovers, that Jonathan's love turned David Gay, and that ancient man/boy sexual relationships were the equivalent of modern same-gender marriage, stretch truth to the breaking point. They've caused an uproar wherever they've appeared. Predictably so!

Anticipating the furore, I emailed the activist wing of Faith In America, WouldJesusDiscriminate.com, and urged them several weeks ago to rethink their campaign. I didn't hear back from them, and judging by the unmodified billboards still displayed on their website, I thought it safe to assume that I never would. However, yesterday, I finally got a response. A form letter, no less, not even addressed to me personally! Obviously, this is Faith In America's backhanded way of dismissing anybody who objects to their dubious Bible scholarship and questionable methods. Dig this arms-length attempt at friendly persuasion:

Dear Friend . . .

Man! Don't you just hate it when someone you don't even know calls you "friend"? It sounds so phony!

Thank you for your note about the Bible-verse billboard campaign being sponsored by our church, Jesus Metropolitan Community Church. While we obviously disagree, we respect you and your point of view, and appreciate the time you've taken to communicate with us. The kind of dialogue we're sharing is critical. One thing I'm sure both of us can agree on is this: The Bible is God's word to us and must be handled with great care. Like you, we love the Bible deeply.

That line made me bristle! I'll explain why later.

With that in mind, we have created a web site that covers all aspects of the Bible and homosexuality in great detail, including the questions you have raised. If you are willing to give thoughtful consideration to our claims, we invite you to revisit our web site, select the passages of Scripture of interest to you, and read all about it. Our discussion includes passages like Leviticus 18 and Romans 1. We have tried to carefully document and footnote each discussion, tying our claims to solid scholarly sources.

I'll discuss their "solid scholarship" a little later, too.

In closing, I just want to remind you that, in the past, we Christians have been wrong about some really important points in the Bible. For centuries, most Christians believed the Bible affirmed slavery and segregation. For centuries, most Christians believed the Bible opposed women's right to vote. Today, we know how wrong we were, and pray we will never make that kind of mistake again.

"We?" I beg to differ!

So, we humbly ask you to give our web site careful consideration.
Precious lives are at stake! We simply can't afford to be wrong again.

Sincerely . . . Sally Hays

In other words: We know the Bible better than you do; we know the best way to stimulate debate; and we know what's best for Gay people. You lowly, insignificant worm! How dare you challenge us?

If they thought this kind of message would shame me into reconsidering my objections, or at least shut me up, they sure didn't know who they were dealing with! I don't shut up about matters like this. I quickly typed the kind of reply I felt their condescending form letter deserved:

Your billboards are inflammatory and often inaccurate, and since you seem unrepentant about them, I see no point in having further communication with you. What you're doing with Bible verses is just as damaging to the cause of Gay equality as what Pat Robertson does with them! In order to see clearly, you must polish your eyeglasses, not throw more dirt on the lenses!

I'll leave you with this observation, though: Your interpretation of the Sodom and Gomorrah story is accurate, but as for the book of Leviticus, you completely ignore its context. Those laws only applied to the ancient Israelites; they were meted out as punishment for idolatry and lack of faith. The supreme sacrifice of Jesus Christ nullifed Levitican law even for the Israelites! The entire book of Galatians supports what I say. As for the Apostle Paul's other writings, what's wrong with admitting that he harbored prejudice against women and homosexual men?

You don't have to find a way to excuse every bit of bigotry that appears in the Bible! It is what it is: Sometimes brilliant, sometimes boring, sometimes inspiring, and sometimes appalling. The Bible was written by human beings, and subject to their human prejudices and ignorance. By sidetracking yourself into arcane discussions about temple prostitution, you are failing to see the forest for the trees. God is the whole forest! Scripture is only foliage.

Yes, I did go back to the WouldJesusDiscriminate.com website, and I read the organization's online analysis of verses from the books of Genesis and Leviticus, and from the Apostle Paul's letters to the Romans, the Corinthians, and his pupil Timothy. Just like I told Ms. Hays, the way they interpret the Sodom and Gomorrah narrative is valid; although it differs somewhat from my own interpretation (see my essay "The Sin of Sodom"), most rational people would agree with their conclusion that the story condemns sexual violence and not homosexuality.

As for the other citations, they basically argue that Moses and the Apostle Paul weren't referring to male-on-male intimacy, but to the practice of male temple prostitution. Male temple prostitutes are indeed mentioned in 1 Corinthians, but so are "Sodomites". Some scholars have speculated that this term doesn't always refer to man-loving men when used in ancient texts, but that's nothing but speculation! Scriptural evidence strongly indicates that the word "Sodomite" wasn't restricted to male prostitutes when Paul used it. The high level of homophobia he expressed in his letter to the Romans reveals a deep antipathy toward homosexual conduct in the general population, including Lesbian sexuality. If you doubt me, then read the letter yourself in a good English translation!

"WMMs: Weapons of Mass Misinformation" continues with Part Two.