But what about all those anti-gay clobber verses?

I do not believe that homosexuality is objectively immoral,” I wrote the other day. Again.

This horrifies many of my fellow evangelicals — not solely because they are anti-gay, but largely because they are pro-Bible. That notion of “objective immorality” is tied up with the need or desire to turn to the Bible for “objective” standards of morality — for rules. If we cannot turn to the Bible for objective rules, then we’re left without a rulebook, and how can we possibly get by without a rulebook? Without a rulebook, “How can we know the way?“*

The Bible is not a rulebook. Trying to read it as a rulebook doesn’t work. Read it that way and you’re bound to be frustrated, misled and confused. Filtering through the Bible to pluck out the rules produces two results, neither of them helpful. First it gives you a jar full of context-less rules, and second it leaves behind the vast bulk of the Bible — all those stories and songs, prophecy, proverbs, parables and promises filtered off to the side by the quest for rules.

So the end result of trying to read the Bible as a rulebook tends to be an anxiety about the worth or meaning of this text that expresses itself as a desperate assertion or “defense” of “the authority of scripture.” The greater the anxiety, the fiercer the defense.

And that is the core of the current argument over the “objective immorality” of homosexuality. It’s not really about sex and it’s not really about LGBT people at all — they’re just collateral damage, pawns in a game that doesn’t regard them as players worthy of “our” attention. What the argument is really about is defending “the authority of scripture.”**

Hence the adamant insistence on the anti-gay clobber verses as the absolute, unambiguous final word on the “objective immorality of homosexuality.” It’s not so much a fear of the prospect of LGBT people participating fully and openly in the life of the church, it’s a fear of undermining the authority of scripture — of the terrifying prospect of life without an objective rulebook.

As for the clobber verses themselves, there are six of them. Six. Out of 31,000 or so — but still those six are, in fact, in there.

It’s interesting, though, that these six verses in particular should be where the defenders of the authority of scripture have chosen to make their stand. Only one of them is really a straight-up, hard-core, thou-shalt-not style prohibition. The other five are just vaguely negative passing references.

It seems to me that if you want to reassert the authority of scripture, you’d be on surer footing by focusing on a different set of authoritative biblical rules from the biblical rulebook. The hundreds of verses regarding wealth and poverty offer a wealth of potential clobber verses — all far clearer and far stricter than any of those six brief mentions of stuff-that-sounds-sorta-gay. And those verses can be found in every part of the Bible — all throughout the law, prophets, wisdom literature, Gospels and epistles.

Yet no one seems interested in defending the authority of those clobber verses. They’re not clobber verses at all because clobbering someone with them would draw attention to them, and that’s the very last thing we want.

When I run afoul of the authority of the half-dozen anti-gay clobber verses I get hate-mail informing me that I’m not “really” a Christian at all, just some anti-Bible, anti-God wolf in sheep’s clothing. And yet I have almost never been criticized or challenged for my lifelong, egregious pattern of brazenly flouting hundreds of those non-clobber verses regarding wealth and poverty.

I have life insurance and interest-bearing bank accounts and investments. I am, perpetually, lending with the expectation of repayment. I have more clothes than there are days in a week, more stuff than I need. Every little bit I clean out the fridge and toss away food that’s gone bad. I am thus — absolutely, undeniably and unbiblically — stealing from the needy, the hungry, the naked and the poor. I am now, and for years have been, in flagrant and indefensible violation of scores of explicit biblical commands — all of which are far clearer, less culturally conditional, and less ambiguous than anything in those six anti-gay clobber verses.

And yet none of the Christians so scrupulously concerned with those six verses are the slightest bit concerned with my behavior in this regard. Most of them can’t be, because they’re violating all of those clear commands too. When the subject is “homosexuality,” and I say “the Bible is not a rulebook,” they are horrified and appalled. When the subject is money, they say “Hey, relax, the Bible is not a rulebook.”

Such self-serving inconsistency makes it impossible and unnecessary to treat their claims of concern for “biblical authority” as sincere, honest or legitimate. If this purported concern for the authority of the scriptures were demonstrated in their own lives and their own wallets with even a fraction of the passion they have for Other People’s Genitals, then that concern might merit a more substantial engagement. It is not and therefore it does not.

“By what authority do you disregard the Holy Sextet of anti-gay Bible verses?”

Tell me first by what authority you disregard the hundreds of biblical teachings on wealth and poverty and then I will answer.

In the meantime, nice shoes. Nice car. Nice house. Nice to know I don’t have to take your lectures on the “authority of scripture” any more seriously than you do.

(See earlier: Sex & Money, part 1; Sex & Money, part 2; Sex & Money, part 3.)

- – - – - – - – - – - -

* For those who don’t click links:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way. …”

There’s all the rulebook you’re gonna get.

** You’re forgiven if every time you read the phrase “the authority of scripture,” you hear Eric Cartman’s voice pronouncing that word “authori-TAH.” That’s kind of unavoidable.

 

  • Whitebear5969

    Apparently homophobia was running ramped during these times, they didn’t except it, so they made it a sin and put it in writing hence the bible verses.

  • http://www.facebook.com/benjamin.stilp Benjamin Stilp

    read it – brilliant. I have been searching for this insight as I have long wondered and noticed how rule obssessed and militant religious zealots are – almost as if they have a deep-seated need for discipline and authority yet missing compassion, kindness, and lacking a comfort-level with inevitable ambiguity life seems to heap. As if any hint of chaos is psychologically threatening, and thus religion’s true comfort and value comes from the authority in its drive to control. This piece is the first I have noted to articulate my thinking. HOWEVER – I do not agree that queers like myself are collateral damage in the religious zealots insistance on order and srtucutre and rules – instead I believe they have their deep-seated prejudice and bias (hatred perhaps rooted in ignorance) of queer people, and thus religious rule-minding is a convenient hook on which to hang moral superiority. In any case, Dante Aligheri reserved a special place in hell for hypocrites posing as acolytes…..

  • Remy Keifer

    I don’t like the word “moral” because it’s subjective. One person’s “moral” is another person’s “unforgivable.” It’s not fair to subjugate everyone under one person’s definition of “moral.”

  • Brian

    “That notion of “objective immorality” is tied up with the need or desire to turn to the Bible for “objective” standards of morality — for rules.”

    Call me crazy, but I feel like God has always asked his people to live according to his standard, and to prove their faith with works. (James 2) That doesn’t make the Bible simply “a rulebook” per se, but it is useful “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16)

    Second, it’s really easy to skew the perception of this whole subject by vocabulary… calling God’s standards “rules” brings images of the law to mind, and calling verses that define righteous sexual relationships “anti-gay clobber verses” makes it sound like God calls for complete destruction of those who are gay (after the death of Christ and the abolition of the law). You can persuade people to think almost anything about anything if you use the right vocabulary.

    Finally, the importance of one of God’s standards cannot be diminished because of it’s frequency in the Bible (or lack thereof). It also can’t be discounted due to the inconsistency of Christians. Telling other Christians “Don’t claim any authority on what God says about this until you live up to his standards on that” is just plain unhelpful… About as unhelpful as the conclusion, mocking Christians for not living consistently in regards to wealth and poverty when we live in one of the easiest cultures to make mistakes in that “category.”

    In short: Authority rests with God, who gave us his Word and his standards. It doesn’t need “re-asserted” or defended. it just is.

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You don’t get this thing called “speaking metaphorically”, do you?


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X