I Really Do Appreciate Christians who go to Bat for LGBT Rights

I Really Do Appreciate Christians who go to Bat for LGBT Rights December 7, 2017

Editor’s Note: It seems like a good time, as the US Supreme Court ponders cakes for gay weddings, to revisit the stand that Jesus takes on homosexuality. Who could do it better than a gay, atheist bible scholar? This is reprinted with permission from his blog on Debunking Christianity.  /Linda LaScola

By David Madison

But com’on, is Jesus their best reason for stepping up to the plate?

Jesus the Consolator

A young man named Matthew Vines has taken on a big challenge: trying to convince Evangelical Christians that their virulent opposition to homosexuality is wrong. Those very righteous people don’t seem to grasp that their anti-gay rhetoric is mean-spirited, destructive, evil. They may claim that they don’t hate gay people…no, they love them, and want to get them to turn away from sin. But they remain mired in aggressive and arrogant ignorance about gay people. They bring shame to theology.

Matthew Vines is the gay Christian who founded The Reformation Project, “a Bible-based, Gospel-centered Approach to LGBT inclusion.” He goes right into the lion’s den, presenting programs to as many evangelical groups as will have him, and he wrote the book, God and the Gay Christian: The Biblical Case in Support of Same-Sex Relationships.

So I give a hearty Bravo! to Matthew Vines, and I wish him well. Now, full disclosure here: I am gay and have had to deal with the hard-heartedness of the church—though not on as grievous a level as many others. I have had the support of my family—after a few rough patches—and I have been with my husband for 39 years…well, we weren’t actually able to marry legally until we had been together for 30 years.

David Madison and Husband

While I very much welcome Christian support for gay rights, Christian theology can bug the hell out of me, even when it means well—especially when dubious reasons are given for supporting good causes. I breathed a heavy sigh recently when I read a piece by a Christian pastor who offers earnest and eloquent support for LGBT rights. John Pavlovitz wrote an article titled: “The Church Beloved: A Manifesto of LGBTQ-Affirming Christians.” It is really a beautiful article—and “manifesto” is an appropriate word because he doesn’t just advocate gay rights, he challenges evangelicals to clean up their act; it truly is an in-your-face statement:
• “we will try to respond not in kind, but in kindness.”
• “but we also will continue to speak without censoring or softening, because that is how injustice is allowed to fester and reproduce.

Now, of course I’m not at all surprised that Pavlovitz calls in Jesus to make his case. And naturally he can get away with this because—well, Jesus is all about love, right? Here are a couple of his Jesus-statements:

“We believe Jesus calls us to love one another, not to tolerate one another; not to warmly embrace some and to hold others at a distance.”

“Love is indeed winning and we are the loud and shimmering proof. If this is bad news to you, we’re going to refer you to Jesus and let the two of you work it out.”

It is understandable that Jesus is considered the supreme good guy. If you’re brought up in the church, you find out that Jesus is God’s son—and what could beat that credential? At an early age you also learn the song, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” (at least in the Protestant tradition). Christian art adds to the mystique, depicting Jesus welcoming little children and offering his healing touch to the multitudes. The folks in the pews see Jesus in the stained glass windows and hear the best snippets of the gospels read from the pulpit.

If these folks, however, venture to read the gospels, they soon run into some alarming texts. But they can rely on the staff of paid propagandists—their priests and pastors—to soften and spin the troubling verses: ”Oh, Jesus didn’t mean that…” As if they would know. I sometimes do wonder how Christianity has survived with so many of the negatives about Jesus in full view in the gospels.

But part of the Christian game is to create what Bart Ehrman has called the “Jesus of the imagination”—Jesus as you want him to be. In David Chumney’s book, Jesus Eclipsed (reviewed in a recent post), he mentions Bible scholar Helen K. Bond’s reference to “a useable Jesus.” “What she means by that,” Chumney says,

“is a historical Jesus whose message would address more directly the social concerns of interest to progressive American churches.”

Pavlovitz has come up with a “useable” Jesus.

But there’s also the “non-usable” despicable Jesus. I’ll offer just five examples here of the negatives about Jesus (out of many).

• Mark 4:10-12; Jesus explains that he teaches in parables to prevent people from repenting (paraphrasing a text from Isaiah) ….No, I’m not kidding.

“When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret [of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; in order that ‘they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”

But the parables are so obviously meant to help people understand. Where did Mark get this idea? …but that’s another long story….

• Matthew 25:44-46; Jesus says that people who fail to show compassion will be punished forever:
“Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment…”

• Matthew 24:37-39; Jesus predicts that, at the coming of the Son of Man, human suffering will be massive, comparable to the genocide at the time of Noah. Jesus did not have a happy ending in mind for humanity; so much for having a having a friend in Jesus:

“For as the days of Noah were, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered the ark, and they knew nothing until the flood came and swept them all away, so too will be the coming of the Son of Man.”

• Mark 3:28-30; Jesus lets it be known that blaspheming the Holy Spirit is a really bad thing—in fact, there’s no appeal, no reprieve.

“Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they had said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’”

• Luke 14:25-26; Jesus casts himself here in the role of cult fanatic. This is pretty brutal. You gotta hate your family?

“Now large crowds were traveling with him; and he turned and said to them, “Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple.”

This text is perhaps the ultimate challenge for the Christian spinmeisters. Eugene Peterson’s translation (The Message Bible) gets rid of the word hate: “Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters—yes, even one’s own self! —Can’t be my disciple.”

In a recent Debunking Christianity comment, Robert Connor spoke the truth:

“The overwhelming majority of Christians don’t know bupkis about what’s in the New Testament.”

They sure don’t seem to know about Luke 14:26, and I don’t think that it would go over well with them—even Eugene Peterson’s dishonest translation, i.e., you’ve got to “let go” of your family, is a shocker. By the way, in Hector Avalos’ book, The Bad Jesus, there is a 39-page chapter explaining why the word hate here cannot be watered down. Too bad, Christians are stuck with it.

It’s very tempting to say, “But…but…but Jesus couldn’t/wouldn’t have said any of those things.” Well, sure, if you’ve bought the church’s stained-glass version of Jesus. If it’s any comfort, however, we have no way of knowing what Jesus said about anything. We have Jesus as seen through the gospel filters. It should be very troubling—shouldn’t it? —that the gospel writers were totally okay putting these brutal, unmerciful words on the lips of their Jesus character.

NOW WATCH: the usual gang of Christian apologists who haunt these pages [The Debunking Christianity website] will rush forward to explain/complain that I have “taken Jesus out of context.” Yawn.

The claim that “Jesus calls us to love one another” doesn’t ring quite so true in light of these texts; indeed, the portrait of Jesus in the gospels is very much a mixed bag. Doesn’t Pavlovitz know this? Is he just unaware of the grievous failure of NT scholars to achieve consensus about what Jesus really did and said? His version of Jesus is a fantasy. Again, Helen Bond:

“There’s nothing wrong with wanting a useable Jesus, but he shouldn’t be confused with the Jesus of history.”

Understandably, of course, the evangelicals have also created their own useable Jesus—one who would denounce Pavlovitz’s wishy-washy “progressive” manifesto.

There are other standards by which to justify pursuit of human rights and equal treatment under the law. Non-Christian religious ethicists—and of course secular ethicists as well—have solid reasons for affirming LGBT rights. It’s my guess that most NT scholars would consider it a stretch to bring Jesus into this conversation at all.


David Madison headshotDavid Madison, a Clergy Project member, was raised in a conservative Christian home in northern Indiana. He served as a pastor in the Methodist church during his work on two graduate degrees in theology. By the time he finished his PhD in Biblical Studies (Boston University) he had become an atheist, a story he shares in the Prologue of his book, published in 2016: 10 Tough Problems in Christian Thought and Belief: a Minister-Turned-Atheist Shows Why You Should Ditch the Faith.

>>>Photo Credits: David Madison, by Andrea Reese ; https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_The_Consolator.jpg#/media/ ; http://www.debunking-christianity.com/2017/07/i-really-do-appreciate-christians-who_28.html

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  • alwayspuzzled

    Atheism is the rational rejection of religion. It is then interesting that some atheists have a psychological need for demonized religion as one of their identity markers. Doesn’t seem very rational.

    • When a religion seeks to determine who people can love or marry especially outside of their sect then it is very rational to speak out against the damage religion is doing. What is not rational is standing by while a minority seek to force their ‘belief’ of how people should act! Since we also don’t believe in demons it is hard to see how we could ‘demonize’ anyone or anything.

    • Annerdr

      Do you suppose the author has actually been harmed by religious people following their religion, and that’s why he dislikes religion?

      • carolyntclark

        We’re all being harmed by religion. It’s never a healthy thing to be deceived, much better to be clear minded than to be led by superstitions.
        As a society we’re being Constitutionally harmed by religion, as zealots seek to impose their agenda on the Nation.

    • David Madison

      ” a psychological need for demonized religion as one of their identity markers” How is it demonizing religion to point out the flaws (especially those in the Bible) that have prompted us to abandon religion? How in the world does that fall short of being rational?

      • carolyntclark

        “SOME” individual atheists do lots of things both good and not so good. Just as all people have personal behavioral practices.
        That doesn’t make any of it a group “identity marker”.

      • ‘How is it demonizing religion to point out the flaws (especially those in the Bible) that have prompted us to abandon religion?’

        My guess is just by questioning and not showing enough reference to a believer’s faith is ‘demonizing’ that religion. I also notice that those people who accuse atheist of demonizing their religion (don’t know how we ‘demonize’ anything since we don’t believe in demons) are the exact same people who would point out the flaws of Islam, Judaism or Hinduism.

    • Jim Jones

      > some atheists have a psychological need for demonized religion

      The atheists in your head?

    • mason lane

      Physicians have a psychological need for demonized disease as one of their identity markers. Maybe that will help you grasp why those who have rationally rejected religion, especially Christian, Muslim or Jewish fundamentalism, also have a need to rationally expose the demons inherent in the religion.

  • Jim Jones

    Don’t need a book.

    Google (centurion pais).

  • David thank you for the post. I read Matthew Vine’s book and could only see motivated rationalization for most of his arguments. It was actually one of the final nails in the coffin for me to hold on to my faith. I could no longer reconcile a loving god and Jesus to me being a homosexual. After looking at other faiths and their claims I came to the realization that I was an atheist.

  • Cryny

    Maybe a little OT, but I’m surprised nobody has asked what incredible fabric softener Jesus has used in that picture up top.


  • mason lane

    David, this is a brilliant expose’ about the sociopath Jesus legend.

    “The overwhelming majority of Christians don’t know bupkis about what’s in the New Testament.” -Robert Conner Yep, that’s for damn sure, especially about liberal Christians, … and the Evangelical fundamentalists who do read the so called New Testament support the nasty instructions from “Jesus”; family division and hatred over religion among kin and the divorce of an unbelieving spouse. I know of the later happening numerous times with Clergy Project members and know two fairly recent members who’ve been served divorce papers because they informed their spouse they no longer believed. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5908802165a35bd567e4815eedb4c71fdbd8254d679dbda87b558230f3d261ea.jpg

    “I’m not at all surprised that Pavlovitz calls in Jesus to make his case. And naturally he can get away with this because—well, Jesus is all about love, right?” … nope, not by a long shot and the Jesus character supported all the horrific edicts in the “law and the prophets. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 17-19

    Here’s a tirade that reveals a Jesus who is not only anti-family values, but anti-world peace. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household. Matthew 10:34

    So much for the all about love myth, about the myth. Love me, worship me, obey me or burn; kinda like an ancient Hitler or Trump.

  • ElizabetB.

    Thanks for such a thoughtful piece, David! Maybe the crux of the matter is that there are so many different points of view in the bible that one can make a pretty good case for what one thinks is good — or bad : ) Fwiw, this is what I advocated a few years ago when our state proposed an amendment to recognize only 1 man / 1 woman marriage:

    A Biblical “No”

    I see faithful, monogamous marriage for people who are gay as part of Jesus’ story.

    He was continually in trouble for putting human need before traditional interpretations of scripture:
    …..”Go and learn what this means: ‘I will have mercy, and not sacrifice.’ “[Hosea 6:6], defending the disciples’ plucking grain on the Sabbath [Mtt.12:7].
    …..”The Sabbath was made for humans, not humans for the Sabbath,” similar situation. [Mk.2:27]
    …..”He looked around at them in anger… deeply grieved at their hardness of heart,” preparing to heal the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath. [Mk.3:5].

    He continually pushed beyond religious taboos:
    …..His hometown synagogue tried to throw him over a cliff for pointing out that God sent a prophet to help unclean Gentiles although many Israelites needed help. [Lk.4:26-27]
    …..He declared all things clean. [Mk.7:19]

    He alerted us to be open to new understandings:
    …..I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” [John 16:12-13]

    Paul passionately defended us Gentiles from being forced to observe the ceremonial purity laws:
    …..”You senseless Galatians! You were running a good race! Who cut in on you? What matters is faith, working itself out by love!” [Gal.5:7,6]
    …..”The commandments…are summed up in this one rule: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’…. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” [Rom.13:9-10]

    I believe Christianity is experiencing Acts 10-11 — like Peter, shocked to see “unacceptable” people exhibiting the gifts of the Spirit:
    …..”…the Holy Spirit came on them as he had come on us at the beginning….So if God gave them the same gift as he gave us, who believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to think that I could oppose God?” [11:15-17]

    I believe the exegetical case against the marriage of faithful, monogamous Christians who are gay is weak. These are the six items in the Bible’s 2,000-year span:

    1. Sodom [Genesis 18-19]. Applying the principle of scripture interpreting scripture, the 60-some accusations against Sodom throughout the Bible include “grinding the face of the poor,” “arrogance,” etc. The lone mention of sexual sin is that of going after different flesh — the flesh of angels — “sarx hetero” [Jude v.7], with zero hint of “same” flesh, sarx homo. When Jesus mentions Sodom, the subject is towns that do not welcome the disciples. Sodom is a story of aggression, male gang rape, not by the wildest stretch of imagination a story of our members who are gentle, constructive members of their communities – and gay.

    2. “Man-bedders.”[I Cor.6:9, I Tim.1:10] “Arsenokoitai” is not known in Greek prior to these two sin lists in Paul and is rare. Some think it coined from the Greek translation of Leviticus 18:22 (see next). It is quite a stretch to call a gay woman a “man-bedder.” More, it is deeply incongruous to place the inspirational people I know, who are gay, in the list of “idolaters, thieves, greedy, slanderers….” Applying the “rule of faith”: Chrysostom, who vehemently opposed homosexual acts, does not mention them when treating these passages. So long as no definition is forthcoming, if “man-bedder” is a same-sex term, it should bear the same relation to “homosexuality” that “adulterers” (part of the list) does to heterosexuality.

    3. “A male you shall not bed the beddings of a woman” [Lev.18:22 & 20:13]. This pair of laws belongs with either the surrounding ceremonial purity laws or the surrounding moral laws.
    Anthropologist Mary Douglas details how, in ancient Israel, purity distinctions between “clean and unclean,” acceptable and “abominable,” make sense from the perspective that everything must be totally one thing or the other. No fuzzy boundaries — like no garment with two kinds of thread. In addition, for a male to “lie the lyings of a woman” would be thought degrading. (I remember boys’ rituals at elementary school to prevent getting “girl germs”!) Whether these two verses belong with the enduring moral laws or the culture of Ancient Israel is the question we struggle with.

    4. Romans 1:26-7. Ironically, not only does this orgy-like description contrast with the faithful samegender couples we know: it is part of Paul’s rhetorical trap to make the points that “there is no one righteous; no not one” [3:10]; “love is the fulfilling of the law” [13:10]; and we must “stop passing judgment on one another” [14:13], respecting one another’s consciences. Paul’s language would support a ceremonial purity meaning, as he does not use his many terms for moral sin, but terms for uncleanness — “dishonor” and “shamelessness.” Here occurs the only mention of females in all these arguments — they act “against nature,” meaning “contrary to custom” in Paul’s day; and historically, “non-procreative sexuality.” Later in Romans, God too is said to act “against nature,” in grafting us Gentiles onto the root of Israel.

    Genesis 2 portrays companionship as the basis of marriage. Whereas Genesis 1 speaks of male and female procreation: “Be fruitful and multiply” (we have succeeded!), a plain reading of Genesis 2 shows God first turned to the animals to find a helper for Adam, “but no suitable helper could be found.” When God presents Eve, Adam does not exclaim At last! someone different from me! — but exclaims over her humanity: “This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh!”

    In the Reformed tradition, I reflect how passionately John Calvin argued against requiring priestly celibacy [Institutes II.viii.42-3 etc.]:
    …..”It is not good for the human to be alone.” [Genesis2:18]
    …..”It is better to marry than to burn with desire.” [I Corinthians7:9]

    Traditional gender equality: This past Sunday’s lectionary included the story of the Ethiopian eunuch, which changed the mind of Worship Professor Emeritus Arlo Duba. Researching baptism, he says, “I concluded that gender equality has been in the Bible for well over two thousand years. [Jeremiah 38 & 39; Isaiah 56, etc.] The surrounding culture has kept us from seeing it.”

    Jesus was continually in trouble when human need conflicted with traditional interpretations. I believe today’s controversy is part of that ongoing struggle, and pray that we struggle faithfully together through to the blessing.

    • carolyntclark

      but the pre-Jesus Golden Rule encompasses it all…. concisely, clearly, simply.

      • mason lane

        1000 B.C: “This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain done unto you.” –the Mahabharata, the Brahman text
        650 B.C: “Do not to your neighbor what you would take ill from him.” –Pittacus
        500 B.C: “Do unto another what you would have him do unto you, and do not do unto another what you would not have him do unto you.” –Confucius
        401-500 B.C: “Avoid doing what you would blame others for doing.” –Thales
        385 B.C: “We should conduct ourselves toward others as we would have them act toward us.” –Aristotle
        338 B.C: “Act toward others as you desire them to act toward you.” –Isocrates
        50 B.C: “Do not do to others what you would not like others to do to you.” –Hillel (Jewish teacher)

        • ElizabetB.

          Thanks again, Mason!! I was curious to look at Karen Armstrong’s index in “A History of God,” as she wrote that the Axial Age sages — 900-200bce in China, India, Israel, and Greece —
          “preached a spirituality of empathy and compassion…. Each tradition developed its own formulation of the Golden Rule –” xiv

          The Buddha — A person who loves the self should not harm the self of others. p287
          Confucius — Never do to others what you would not like them to do to you. p208
          497-425bce Mahavira (Jains) — Treat all others as you would wish to be treated yourself. p243
          480-390bce Mozi (Chinese) — Others must be regarded like the self… all embracing and exclude nobody. p270
          c.300bce Mencius –Try your best to treat others as you would wish to be treated yourself. p306
          c.80bce–30ce Rabbi Hillel — What is hateful to yourself, do not do to your fellow man. p379

          It’s encouraging to see how worldwide this is…. I want to dig in to some of these sections of her book, especially the ones about ahimsa and ecological nonviolence

      • ElizabetB.

        Thank you for the call back to the core, Carolyn!!!!!

    • Thank you, ElizabetB for this detailed analysis. Many years ago I gave lectures at churches, “Why the Bible Is Not Anti-Gay” and made many of these same points. One point you make, well, I’m not so sure: “Sodom is a story of aggression, male gang rape” Everything hangs on the Hebrew word, yadah, meaning “to know.” Were the residents on Sodom demanding that Lot hand over the strangers to “know” them “in the Biblical sense”–or because, since Lot’s guests were strangers, did the men of Sodom want to find out who they were? But even if they did have rape in mind….that has nothing to do with same-sex relationships today. And if the men of Sodom were homosexuals….why would Lot offer them his daughters?! THAT”S the most immoral thing about the story! Well, until the end, when Lot, dead drunk, impregnates his daughters–and receives no reprimand from God. It’s best to leave this story out of the contemporary debate altogether.

      And for me…It’s also best to leave Jesus out of the debate too. We have ‘Jesus script’ through the gospel filters. By which I mean that the authentic words of Jesus cannot be retrieved. The gospels were written decades after the events they portray, and I doubt that “oral tradition” preserved the words of Jesus. We don’t know the sources used by any of the gospel writers.There is no contemporary documentation of any kind. Historians have nothing to go on, trying to write a Jesus bio. Hunches about “what sounds authentic” in the Jesus stories just won’t do.

      In any case, bravo for your strong statement, “a Biblical NO” to the 1 man/1 woman definition of marriage!

      • mason lane
        • That graphic is on my business card! 🙂

          • Linda_LaScola

            It was one of the revelations of this formerly Catholic girl, who never really read the Bible, to find that clergy who did, were led away from religion.

          • David Madison

            But, of course, the great majority of clergy are trained in the techniques for smoothing over the errors, flaws, contradictions. Even so, there are a few who can’t live with the cover-ups and sophistry.

          • Linda_LaScola

            I think that most of the clergy I’m referring to bought the seminary training they received in smoothing over the problems in the Bible and then sold it unwittingly to their congregations — for a while. Repetition and questions from people in the pews eventually took its toll, making clergy re-examine what they’d bought and what they’d been selling.

      • ElizabetB.

        Thank you so much, David! That’s really interesting that you gave lectures in churches. Many people must have been so thankful to hear what was seldom spoken not so many years ago!!!

        Whew — you’re right about leaving out the Sodom story (except that it’s so huge in our language and popular imagination). Maybe from being handed down so many centuries, it’s contradictory no matter which way one takes it. What would be so threatening about a Sound of Music “Getting to Know You”? Yes, it’s surely not talking about healthy relationships — of any sexuality! — but, in the threatening-type scenario (“Don’t do this wicked thing”), a blatant assault, as in warfare and tribalism.

        I always figured the Lot story was a jab at the Moabites’ ancestry : ) But a close relative horrified me by saying the offer of the daughters just demonstrates how much worse same-sex relationships are than heterosexual ones. Shocking, reprehensible attitude!!! Seems like one just has to address the story somehow?

        Yes, massive uncertainties surround a Jesus character. But I’m thinking that here in the Bible Belt maybe one can be more effective by offering an alternative “pick & choose” than by starting with a challenge to the whole idea of “biblical authority”? ….Probably it all needs to be done, in whatever order : )

        I appreciate so much your feedback!!!! As someone who’s still in the official tradition, I’m always wondering how to be a positive influence.

        Wedding congratulations!!!!!!!!!!! I’m so sorry you had to wait for that piece…. Love the picture here!!!! Deep gratitude for your work in this essential evolution

        • I suspect that 999 people out of 1000 miss the jab at the Moabites! Yes, the last two verses of Genesis 19, with the references to the Moabites and Ammonites (two of Israel’s traditional enemies), are intended as an insult, i.e., these two tribes are the result on incest.

          Indeed, your close relative’s comment is appalling. It’s hard for me to grasp that there are people out there who don’t know any gay people–they certainly don’t know any gay couples–and thus can say such mean-spirited things. I have been puzzled for years: where does the intense homophobia come from? We can’t just “blame the church” because homophobia is found in traditional Chinese and African cultures. We CAN blame the church for participating in homophobia, encouraging it, etc. Some churches have endorsed gay rights, perform same-sex marriages, etc., but then the Catholic church has institutionalized homophobia. It is scared to death of the issue because so many men have retreated to the priesthood to avoid dealing with same-sex attraction. THAT didn’t work out well, did it?

          • ElizabetB.

            Maybe anthropologists have the best clues as to why issues involving gender, religion, and politics evoke such powerful reactions! To the point of taking life. It IS mystifying and dismaying.

            The horrible comment came early on in the current debates, in the 70’s. We eventually stopped discussing. They did know people who were/are gay, and were friendly and helpful to them. Now our family includes a fantastic female couple… but the 6 clobber verses reign supreme when voting, etc. The relative is very settled in quite conservative theology, and I think it’s due in part (maybe largely?) to growing up in a long line of conservative ministers on both sides of the family. The relative went through a rather long period of questioning but gradually settled into the family perspectives. Some of the opinions are inconsequential to others — but this particular one can be deadly, including risks of suicide. How I wish I knew how to get at it.

            Please let R.D. know when you encounter good hypotheses!! and approaches!!!!!!! Thank you for all your work… and Congratulations again!!!!!!!

          • By the way, I write for John Loftus’ Debunking Christianity Blog; my weekly article is published every Friday, http://www.debunking-christianity.com

          • ElizabetB.


            I looked around there following the link in your post here, and wondered whether there’s a pattern. Very happy to have the helpful destination!!! Many thanks!

          • Elizabeth, please send me a Facebook friend request: David (Yegerlehner) Madison. 🙂

          • ElizabetB.

            Great pictures on your page! I use FB just to check on how someone is recovering from surgery, etc; and so far haven’t made the jump from Disqus to family members. I do have an online spot sort of trying to summarize where I’d gotten to a year + ago. Since then I’ve become a little more freethinking. No one other than me could be interested!!!! but https://ytinummocdevoleb.wordpress.com/ [‘Beloved Community’ backward! that would be me : ) ] Come to think of it — Rational Doubt is where I do most of my day-to-day puzzling : )

          • ElizabetB.

            p.s. Re-reading my reply I’m realizing — wow, considering human nature and tradition — there really have been pretty earthshaking forward strides in issues involving people who are not your standard cookiecutter same-olds… and that, I should be celebrating!!

    • mason lane

      Eliz …. “the crux of the matter is that there are so many different points of view in the bible that one can make a pretty good case for what one thinks is good — or bad : ) ” That’s for sure! You’ve made a valiant effort to white wash Jesus …. but he’s still, at best, a benevolent dictator of the worst order.

      The so called “bible”, really a bunch of 66 very short pamphlets written over thousands of years by 40 different authors, stapled together and called a book by the Catholic Church, is such a collection of contradictions, absurdities, some nicer stuff, plenty of bigoted cruel nasty stuff, and scientific ignorance, that it’s possible to justify anything using some gems from the “bible.”

      The point you’re missing is that the Jesus character is, bottom line, just as much a totalitarian deity as his ruthless mythical Jehovah, and he wouldn’t dare contradict his father’s edicts! All the horrid “scripture” supporting slavery, subjugation of females, and the killing of gays was supported and endorsed by Jesus.

      “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5: 17-19

      Death for Gays; Leviticus 20:13

      • ASV: (American Standard Version, 1901) “And if a man lie with mankind, as with womankind, both of them have committed abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
      • Darby: (J.N. Darby Translation, 1890): “And if a man lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall certainly be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
      • ESV: (English Standard Version): “If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them.”
      • HNV: (Hebrew Names Version): “If a man lies with a male, as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”
      • KJV: (King James Version): “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them.”

      • ElizabetB.

        If folks are going to “pick & choose,” I pick along with the best of them! If people are not going to acknowledge the contradictions, a different “picking” may at least slow them down a little in the destructive selections : )

        • mason lane

          I think you should now write your book ElizabetB … “PICK & CHOOSE” -The Destructive and Constructive Selections in the Bible” 🙂

          • ElizabetB.

            Mason, that is not a bad idea!! I can see at least a doctoral dissertation! Yes, that would be an interesting entree into the issues. You go first!

          • ElizabetB.

            Hi Mason! Looks like I won’t have to bother with my Pick & Choose tome. Thanks to a link from comments on David Madison’s piece today on Debunking Christianity, I see Valerie Torico is already on it! : )

            “In Defense of Cherry Picking the Bible”
            “Rather than being used as an epithet, perhaps cherry picker should be a compliment, an acknowledgment of discernment, wisdom, judgment, and responsibility. In actual fact, all religious believers (and nonbelievers) cherry pick their sacred texts or cultural traditions, even fundamentalists, even those who deny doing so. A book like the Bible or Quran contains passages that contradict each other, or that demand a level of perfection (or cruelty) that is simply unattainable for most believers. Whether we are Christian or Muslim or post-Abrahamic freethinkers or practitioners of some other spiritual tradition, the question isn’t whether we cherry pick, it is whether we do so wisely and well, based on some higher principle that tells us which passages are spiritually nourishing and which should be discarded.”

            But it was fun thinking about it : )

  • “That is why God, your God, anointed you.” -Hebrews 1:9

    Who is Jesus’ God?