Of clobber-texts and anti-clobber-texts: The Bible is not a card game

In a recent “Smart people saying smart things” post, I quoted from Letha Dawson Scanzoni’s recent Christian Feminism Today piece “There Is More Than One Christian View on Homosexuality.” That post is taken from a 2005 talk Scanzoni gave at a “Faith Beyond Boundaries” interfaith conference. I suppose  describing it as a sermon might make it even less appealing than describing it as an address from an interfaith conference, but really that’s what it is — a sermon (a good one) on Micah 6:8.

When I was a kid, riding to church (twice on Sundays and on Wednesday nights) we’d usually get stuck at the light on West Seventh Street and from the back seat of the car I’d read the words from that verse carved on the wall of the synagogue there:



The full verse is just as good: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

I love the blunt simplicity of that. This isn’t complicated, Micah is saying, here’s the whole deal in a nutshell. Boom — that’s it. The rest is just details. More can be said, but no more needs to be said. You could preach on that for a year and still not be done with it, but if you preach for a year and never arrive there then you’ve probably been wasting your breath.

This is good stuff, is what I’m saying. The best stuff.

Yet I fear that when Letha Dawson Scanzoni invokes this passage in direct response to a specific challenge, the person making that challenge still won’t be satisfied. It’s a far better answer than what he expected, but because it’s not shaped like the answer he expects to hear, I doubt he’ll be able to hear it.

Here’s her description of the challenge she was presented:

People for the most part appear to subscribe to a proof-text approach. Thus, after a favorable review of the book I wrote with Dave Myers appeared on an Internet blog, one reader entered this comment in response to that review:

“Please, if you could, give me a verse or passage in the Bible that plainly casts homosexuality in a positive light. Just give me one. Because, when Leviticus calls homosexuality an “abomination” I have a hard time seeing the pro-homosexuality biblical argument. If one wants to make a secular argument, fine, go right ahead. But when you try to establish a “Christian” case for being in favor of homosexuality you’ve left the realm of Christianity entirely.

“However, if you can, please cite me a passage that displays Yahweh’s affection for homosexuality. It should be fairly simple if it’s there.”

Referring to the subtitle of our book, he went on to say “there is no ‘Christian case’” and had some harsh words to say about those of us who think otherwise. Nevertheless, today I am going to take him up on his challenge. I am going to suggest that “one verse” that I think we people of faith can use in applying our faith to this topic.

The “one verse” she cites is Micah 6:8, and she goes on to build a convincing case as to why this one verse, even all by itself, compels her to advocate for the full equality of LGBT people (read the whole thing).

Artwork from Kelly Stephens’ Etsy shop (click for the link).

But the problem, in her inquisitor’s eyes, is that this passage is not itself a clobber-text. He reads the Bible like a child playing the old card game of “War.” He puts down his card — a clobber-text from Leviticus. And now it’s her turn to play her card. If she doesn’t have a corresponding clobber-text that trumps his, then he wins.

The idea that maybe the Bible is more than a collection of clobber-texts is beyond his imagination. The idea that a text could be anything other than a clobber-text is not a possibility that he can accommodate. Scanzoni’s argument, like Micah’s, is about cutting through distracting side issues to get to the core of what matters most: What does the Lord require?

But “what does the Lord require?” was not the inquisitor’s question. His question was “Do you have an anti-clobber text that overrules my clobber-text?” Like the prophet Micah, I think that’s a dumb question. It’s the wrong question — a question as irrelevant to everything as any possible answer to it would be. It’s a question that can only serve to distract us and to help us hide from ourselves the question that does matter — the question that the prophet asks and answers in Micah 6:8.

“But that verse isn’t about homosexuality!” the inquisitor protests.

Really? So there are certain subjects or realms or “issues” for which justice, mercy and humility do not apply?

I used to run into this weird objection when I spoke in churches or at conferences representing the Evangelical Environmental Network. My standard talk for the EEN was based on Galatians 5:22-23:

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.

Every once in a while someone would complain that this passage isn’t about the environment. That’s narrowly true, I suppose. St. Paul did not say, “Don’t dump mercury in the river because poisoning your neighbors doesn’t demonstrate love, joy, peace, etc.” But surely this passage is obviously relevant to matters like mercury pollution, or to climate change, conservation, recycling, waste, etc.

It took me a while to realize what this complaint really meant. They were disappointed that I hadn’t recited an environmentalist clobber-text. Without a specific clobber-text on the specific topic in question, it seemed, they were unable to regard anything in the Bible as meaningful.

If forced to do so, I can recite a host of “environmental” clobber-texts, but while those might help these folks to win a hand or two in their games of Bible War, that won’t address the larger, deeper problem, which is that they remain unable to think of the Bible as anything more than an anthology of discrete, unrelated clobber-texts addressing various subjects.

And as long as that is how they read the Bible, they will never be able to ask Micah’s question. And they will never be able to hear Micah’s answer.

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  • Baby_Raptor

    Why did that synagogue use Vs instead of Us?

    The inquisitor is showing more of himself than he intends to here; his insistence on a verse specifically mentioning homosexuality shows that he thinks LGBTs to be such horrible sinners that the typical, run of the mill commands towards love, justice and mercy don’t apply to us. We need a specific pardon for our very specific, dirty sins.

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

    Probably they’re easier to carve than Us are, and it’s a kind of Olde Style Latinqesue thing too.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Gotcha. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    Well, frankly, anyone who unironically quotes Leviticus as a meaningful guide to how one should live is kind of showing their hand as an illiterate asshole looking for ways to condemn those they don’t like in any case. Particularly since I’m betting that dude doesn’t hold with the whole Jubilee thing.

  • Matticus

    Exactly. I’ve never understood how people can go around quoting that one part of Leviticus while ignoring literally everything else. I always want to go on that rant that President Bartlett from West Wing uses against that homophobic radio host (I’d link, but I’m on a mobile device) where he lists all the other things that Leviticus deems worthy of the death penalty that we do all the time.

  • Lori

    That is one of my favorite rants of all time.

  • Jurgan

    It actually predates The West Wing, and was a letter sent to the real Dr. Laura: http://www.snopes.com/politics/religion/drlaura.asp

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

    It’s evolved into a sort of catch-all anti-clobber verse and as such it’s really lost a lot of its dramatic effect. :(

  • Marshall

    You don’t see this as being anti-semitic, do you?

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

    In what way is it anti-Semitic to point out that fundamentalists who quote Leviticus (selectively) as their preferred guide to everyday living are cherry-picking for what they think is moral authority to condemn QUILTBAG people?

    And Fred has written often on the Biblical and moral basis for Jubilee.

  • Marshall

    Thomas said that the people who think Leviticus is a meaningful guide to life are “illiterate assholes”. I didn’t suppose that Thomas was deliberately being anti-semitic, but the statement that Jews who take the Torah seriously are a class of “illiterate assholes” is … at least careless and bound to be hurtful to innocent people.

    My point is that people shouldn’t cherry-pick verses as moral authority for condemning classes of people, be they Orthodox Jews or Quiltbaggers. Assuming you are interested in raising the quality of discourse, to be sure.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    I should have stuck an “in this context” in there for fear that it could be taken that way- I meant specifically people who quote Leviticus as part of the Old Testament, since the text clearly has a different meaning in the context of the Torah (which I can’t speak to at all.)

  • Marshall

    Thanks for the clarification. Words are loaded, please use them carefully.

  • Vass

    I do, ever since an Orthodox Jewish friend wrote about how she found it hurtful seeing that letter reposted all the time. It’s not anti-Semitic to say “you’re taking the gay bits of Leviticus out of context, and you’re not even Jewish, so it’s not for you anyway.” It is kind of anti-Semitic to say “ha ha look at all those ridiculous rules, no one could keep all of those, that’s why Jesus overturned them, silly Jews and their sideburns and unblended fabrics!”

  • Carstonio

    True. My own stance is that the clobber-texters* are practicing a type of cultural imperialism, telling Jews that they’re mistaken about the meaning of their book. I hope that falls into your first category.

    *Texting quotes from Leviticus to gays at random

  • Fanraeth

    I got into an argument once with someone over Sodom and Gomorrah. Despite me amply laying out evidence from the Bible itself and Jewish tradition for why the cities were destroyed, he continued to insist that the Christian interpretation was actually true, despite having no evidence to back it up other than one verse in Jude (aka that book no one remembers or cares about until they need a gay clobber verse).

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    One can criticize a religion without being a bigot. It’s not anti-Semitic to think that large chunks of the Old Testament are utterly vile. It would be anti-Semitic to say, “and therefore Jews are terrible”.

    It’s also almost always Christians who attempt to clobber people with the Old Testament, and it is them we are fighting by actually talking about what’s in it. And I am going to make moral judgments about what’s in it. That something is a religion does not give it a free pass to automatic respect.

  • http://www.owlfolio.org/ Zack Weinberg

    As a (nonpracticing) Jew, I concur with this but I think it’s also important to recognize that Jews themselves have been wrestling with the vile chunks of the Old Testament for millennia. It _is_ a little too easy to say “ha ha, look at that giant list of obsolete regulations” if you don’t know what rabbinical interpretation has done to it. (The basic principle is to try to find an analogy whereby each rule can be transformed into something that makes sense in the modern world. To take an obvious example, the _point_ of the rather lengthy set of rules about what to do with excrement is to prevent contamination of one’s drinking water. Modern sanitary sewers are therefore in keeping with the spirit of the Law.)

    … Personally, the parts of the OT I find most problematic are not the legal code, which is dealt with by the above sort of logic, but the many incidents where G-d commands the Israelites to go slaughter their neighbors. This, too, rabbis wrestle with; I unfortunately don’t recall what the conclusions are.

  • Elizabeth Coleman

    From what I can tell of Judaism, (I’m speaking as an outsider) there is a lot of latitude and even encouragement to enter into a dialogue with the text, with G-d, and with each other. It’s like the opposite of the literal-minded fundamentalists.

  • http://www.owlfolio.org/ Zack Weinberg

    That’s definitely the way it was in the religious education I got as a child (mainstream American Conservative Judaism). I have the impression that there are ultra-Orthodox sects that are much more literal-minded, but I don’t know nearly enough about them to make any kind of comparison to Christian fundamentalism.

  • kwdayboise

    But again, Laura, it’s a shallow read of the document. The Bible, taken as a whole, illustrates an evolving understanding of the human relationship to God. And some of the most loving and caring passages in the Bible exist in the old testament, many of which were highlighted and developed in Jesus’ teachings.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Who the fuck is Laura?

  • kwdayboise

    Someone in my fucking autocorrect. Made more dominant by my Kindle hiding the text as I write.

  • Nick Gotts

    Yup, that understanding definitely evolves: in the OT God just kills people he doesn’t like; in the NT, he plans to torture them forever.

  • kwdayboise

    Deep reading. Thanks for sharing.

  • Amtep

    Capital U is a quite recent part of the alphabet. 17th century or something? Even in America the synagogue might be older than that :)

  • Carstonio

    Some buildings built since then use the V for stylistic effect, such as MVSEVM or “muv-zee-vum” as Steve Martin pronounced it. Not really that much different from US restaurants and stores using “Ye Olde” or pseudo-archaic spellings like “shoppe.”

  • Jason Jones

    Flannery O’Connor did it first in Wise Blood! Sorry, I just got excited because that was one of my favorite jokes from that book. It follows that an undereducated usher from a movie theater then breaks into the MVSEVM to steal a mummy that he thinks has magical powers. Southern Grotesque is awesome.

  • http://shiftercat.livejournal.com/ ShifterCat

    Fun fact: “Ye”, in that context, is “The”. There used to be a letter called thorn, which looked quite a bit like y, and was sounded as “th”.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    Actually not that much. But as luck would have it, only when used in the word ‘the’, there was a convention of writing the ‘e’ directly over top of the thorn to save space, and when you crush a thorn to make that fit, it makes it look more like a ‘y’.

    The use of ‘y’ for thorn stems from the fact that during the elizabethan era, printing presses were all made in Germany and Italy, and therefore didn’t have the Wacky English-Only Letters.

  • http://hummingwolf.livejournal.com/ Hummingwolf

    Was the letter used actually thorn (Þ or lowercase þ, which sounds like the “th” in “thorn”) or was it eth (Ð or lowercase ð, which sounds like the “th” in “this”)? I don’t know enough about English pronunciation at the time to know how “the” was pronounced then, but I certainly use the voiced eth-sound now.

    Thorn and eth are both still used in Icelandic, which I learned way, way back when I bought this record.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    As the nastiest “clobber passages” are in the Old Testament (and since I myself am Jewish) I like to point out to Christian “clobberers” that despite our alleged Pharisaic focus on the letter of the law over the spirit, somehow both reform and conservative Judaism are not only generally LGBT friendly but have even come to affirm same-sex marriages- so perhaps even Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13 are not as airtight as they think.

  • Wednesday

    Well, Christianity already asserts that Jews Are Wrong About Certain Parts of their Sacred Texts (specifically, all of the prophecies that Christianity asserts were Sekkritly Actually about Jesus instead of what they appear to be about in context). So it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for Christians to argue that the Reform and Conservative Jews are wrong about Leviticus as well.

    Of course, making that argument would require the clobberers admit that (a) the original context of Isaiah 7:14 was a prophecy to King Ahaz that a young woman (virginity not specified) would have a male baby, and before that baby got very old, the King’s enemies would be defeated, and (b) they are saying Jews are wrong about their own holy book.

    All that said, I find it darkly amusing when clobber-versers cite both Leviticus and Paul without any irony. It would be one thing if they cited Paul first, and then when that’s rejected, cited Leviticus as “well, since you rejected Paul condemning male prostitutes and Christians participating in pagan orgies teh gheys, you must also reject his position on Levitical law not applying to Christians any longer, so here’s Leviticus on how gay sex should be punishable by death.”

    I’d still have a counter for that, but at least they’d be recognizing the inherent contradiction between using both Paul and Leviticus _at the same time_ to argue that Gays Are Icky.

  • DavidCheatham

    All that said, I find it darkly amusing when clobber-versers cite both Leviticus and Paul without any irony.

    The best thing about those verses in Leviticus hat the lists of things not to do _literally_ starts with God telling Moses ‘Say to the Israelites’.

    I am not an Israelite. In fact, I probably shouldn’t even be _reading_ this. It’s someone else’s mail!

    It would be one thing if they cited Paul first, and then when that’s rejected, cited Leviticus as “well, since you rejected Paul condemning male prostitutes and Christians participating in pagan orgies teh gheys, you must also reject his position on Levitical law not applying to Christians any longer, so here’s Leviticus on how gay sex should be punishable by death.”

    This is way too complicated for them to understand. They’ll just repeat what they were taught in Sunday school, that Paul’s rejection of Levitical _only_ applies to food.

    The fact will be entirely lost on them that a) This is exactly at odds with what _Paul himself_ said the message meant (Which Fred talked about in an earlier post) and b) if you take Paul’s vision ‘literally’ that only makes non-kosher animals kosher, and does nothing about the double prohibition on, for example, rare cheese burgers. (Eating blood _and_ eating the milk and meat of the same animal at once.)

    Of course, the _most_ hypocritical thing I like to point out about Leviticus law is against men who _shave their sideburns_, something that literally would not cost them anything to refrain from doing, and yet they do anyway, without thinking.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    You’re thinking of Peter’s vision. Paul relates a little more in Romans 14, where he pretty much says “All those old laws? Eh, screw ’em.”

    (Edit: VISION, not VERSION. Bloody hell, I shouldn’t have mentioned this problem earlier — I triggered it!)

  • DavidCheatham

    I stand corrected. That just makes it dumber.

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

    Incidentally, what is the basis, in Judaism, for discounting the validity of those statements within Leviticus?

  • dpolicar

    In my experience with LGBT-friendly temples, this isn’t treated as a Battle of the Proof Texts so much as a Don’t Be a Dick situation.

  • Kubricks_Rube

    Here’s a brief rundown of how conservative Judaism has evolved over the last 20 years. The process is ongoing:

    In 1992, the CJLS [Committee on Jewish Law and Standards] action affirmed its traditional prohibition on homosexual conduct, blessing same-sex unions, and ordaining openly gay, bisexual, and lesbian clergy. However, these prohibitions grew increasingly controversial within the Conservative movement….

    Some argued that a change in Jewish understanding and law on this issue must change due to new information about the biology and genetics concerning human sexuality. Others argued that a change was required solely on ethical grounds….

    Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson…used historical, sociological and ethical considerations to argue that homosexuality, as it is now understood today, was not described by the Torah, or understood by traditional rabbis. As such, one would be able to restrict the understanding of the Torah prohibition to cases not being considered today.

    Rabbi Gordon Tucker sus up what I think is the general view of most liberal Jews:

    When someone says, “What can we do? The Torah is clear on the subject!”, what is being said amounts to a claim of infallibility and irrefutability for the text of the Torah. And that claim ultimately rests on the assumption that the words of Leviticus (and, of course, those of the other four books of the Pentateuch) express directly and completely the will of God. (Indeed, treating a text as infallible on any basis other than on such an assumption would surely count as a form of idolatry.) But that assumption (that the Torah is the direct and complete expression of God’s will) is one that, for all its currency in parts of the Jewish world, is not accepted in our Conservative Jewish world.[…]

    But if we confess that we do not accept the axiom of biblical infallibility, then let us honor our teachers by abandoning this theological argument, and by no longer permitting ourselves to say, when the matter of gays and lesbians comes up, “What can we do? The Torah is clear on the subject!” Could it perhaps be that critical study itself was given to us precisely so that we would not let the text of the Torah stand as an impediment to the acceptance, fulfilment, and normalization of God’s creatures?

    And then:

    On June 2012, the American branch of Conservative Judaism formally approved same-sex marriage ceremonies in a 13-0 vote.[…] However, the Conservative decision did not call same-sex marriages kiddushin, the traditional Jewish legal term for marriage, because that act of consecration is nonegalitarian and gender-specific. In the traditional kiddushin ceremony, a pair of blessings is recited and the bridegroom gives his bride a ring, proclaiming that he is marrying his bride “according to the laws of Moses and Israel.”</blockquote?


  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    The #1 rule of Judaism, as I understand it from the people in my family who are Jewish, is to be a good person. Do not hurt others and always strive toward what is good and helpful. It is explicit that if the law and what is right/helpful/moral conflict, then it is necessary to amend or discard the law.

    There are, of course, different Jewish sects, just as there are different Christian sects, and they have different stances on this.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    My question is this: why have Judaism, Catholicism and the religions of the state churches of northern Europe moderated?

  • Matthias

    Do you ever look stuff up before posting? Because the state churches of northern Europe are conducting same sex marriage. The church of Swedens for instance started to provide same sex marriage in October 2009

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Exactly my point. I wondered why they have significantly “moderated”, that is, have become so moderate/liberal/progressive. Do you ever read comments before replying to them?

  • Arresi

    I’m not sure I understand your question. Are you asking for the historical factors behind the shift in position? Or are you asking why some branches of Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism have adopted the contemporary liberal position on various social issues while others have not and/or adopted the contemporary conservative position?

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    The former, although both seem like aspects of the same question to me.

  • Arresi

    Wow, that’s a really broad question. Ok. I’ll give this my very best guess, before I head out. I’d say where liberalism caught hold, it probably did so out because of a need to reconcile contemporary knowledge with the text, and a general desire to avoid religious conflict.

    For example, how do you reconcile “all men were created equal,” “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” chattel slavery, and the Bible? You either declare some men not equal, or you declare chattel slavery immoral, and this is going to both depend on, and be influenced by, how you read the Bible. But how you read the Bible impacts a whole lot of other things. A reading that lets you say slavery is immoral is a reading that later lets you say that women should have the right to vote, and that gays should get married. (Simplifying considerably.)

    (This isn’t precisely unique to religion – people do science in much the same way. Look at how Jefferson and Jared Diamond approached the question of “Why did Europe take over the world?” There’s more than two hundred years between them.)

    In the case of state churches, the moderation is usually a response to years of religious conflict, I think.

  • Katie

    There are also some Jews who argue for interpreting the prohibition in Leviticus as a narrow prohibition on anal sex, rather than as a broad one on forming a loving partnership with a person of the same sex and engaging in permitted sexual acts.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Which, er, anal sex is often part of a loving partnership among people of any gender, so.

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

    To be fair, back in that era one thing people probably had only the vaguest understanding of was how urinary tract infections got started and transmitted.

    One can regard it as an admonition to safe and sanitary sex practices which, given modern condom manufacturing techniques, means the risk is cut down to near zero with proper usage of condoms.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    And soap. But that’s always true for women. We just have to be extra careful about washing after anal penetration, but it’s not like vaginal penetration has no pitfalls when it comes to cleanliness.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I think what I find telling about the response to Micah 6:8 is that it demonstrates how sex-obssessed many in the anti-gay crowd really is.

    Bring up real matters of injustice toward LGBT people — homelessness among LGBT youth, lack of access to quality health care, bullying and violence, you name it — and there is often at least that one person who will try to refocus the conversation with, “Yes, but what about [what the Bible says/speaking the truth about the sinfulness of homosexuality/etc]?” Because, you know, the horrors of what two or more consenting adults might choose to do amongst themselves is just so much more important than homeless teens, people without the health care they need, and dozens of other injustices.

    This weekend, I was involved in a similar conversation when someone asked when Christians were called to “stand up against evil,” by which he meant “the overturning of DOMA and the defeat of Prop 8.” I invited him to stand up against [Content Note for link: Homophobia, death, threats of violence, and a few other things I don’t quite know how to describe] this evil instead.

    Not a single person in the conversation chose to discuss the video.

  • the shepard

    they don’t want to think of homosexuals as people, if they did they might start feeling empathy and kindness towards them. they have to make them a bundle of ickiness in order to truly maintain their righteous rage.

  • Lori

    Or if they didn’t feel empathy and kindness toward them they’d feel a little bad about that because everyone knows that we’re supposed to be kind to other people.

  • Eric Boersma

    The entire point of being a “culture warrior” is to de-humanize those who disagree with you. Homosexuals aren’t people, they’re Political Issues.

    The whole point is not to think of them as people. This is why so many start to do 180s when they form close friendships with those who are gay, since it’s not an abstract Political Issue any more, but now, for them, there are Real People being hurt by this.

  • Charby

    To be fair, the sexual morality parts of the Bible are probably the easiest and most convenient for them to follow. Giving up your guilty pleasure snacks? Having to get rid of that favorite shirt because it’s the wrong type of fabric? Those things are hard. But if you’re not attracted to someone of the same sex as you, keeping that commandment is a piece of cake — you would do it even if you didn’t have to, because it wouldn’t necessarily occur to you to do otherwise.

    They make up for the fact that they flout all of the other teachings of the Bible by doubling down on this one — sure, I drink, I smoke, but at least I’m not gay. And if “not being gay” is the only righteous thing I do, then I’m going to “not be gay” as hard as I can.

    Maybe they’ll get bonus points for that at the Pearly Gates.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I agree with everything you said. I just don’t find anything “fair” about it. ;)

    When I see the mentality you describe, I often like to respond with a simple statement:

    “I thank Thee, O God, that I am righteous, unlike yon tax collector.”

  • Wednesday

    I’d never seen that video before. Thank you for sharing. Dammit, the end of DOMA and Prop 8 came too late. ;_;

  • the shepard

    micah 6:8 is my single favorite bible verse. it lays it all out, simply and directly and if you follow it faithfully, you got it made in the shade.

  • ReverendRef

    Referring to the subtitle of our book, he went on to say “there is no
    ‘Christian case’” and had some harsh words to say about those of us who
    think otherwise.
    — Referring to “there is no Christian case that is pro-homosexuality.”

    There really isn’t a “Christian case” for anti-homosexuality either. As has been pointed out, most of the clobber verses come from the Old Testament and are either simply wrong when applied to homosexuality (i.e. Sodom & Gomorrah) or can be read differently if you take the time to do so (“Do not lie with a man as with a woman, for that is an abomination” could very well mean that since women were considered property, do not treat a man [person] as a piece of property).

    In short, you can’t use the Hebrew scriptures to make a “Christian” case. You need to work from Christian scriptures first with some sense of context from both. But as we’ve seen, context is really just some librul dog whistle to push the big, bad gay agenda.

    It’s early, it’s hot and I haven’t eaten yet . . . did any of the above make any sense?

  • FearlessSon

    It’s early, it’s hot and I haven’t eaten yet . . . did any of the above make any sense?

    Perfectly, Reverend. Amen.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    It took me a while to realize what this complaint really meant. They
    were disappointed that I hadn’t recited an environmentalist
    clobber-text. Without a specific clobber-text on the specific topic in
    question, it seemed, they were unable to regard anything in the Bible as

    The thought at the core of this statement is one of the prime reasons I cite my history degree as a primary reason for leaving Evangelical Christianity. It’s not that I spent all of my time reading histories that refuted Christianity (far from it, in fact), it’s that I started looking at the history of Christianity and Judaism as a historian and I started reading the Bible as a historical text.

    Good historians don’t look for clobber texts. They create bibliographies and historiographies and build a case based on all the available evidence. They might take a single line from here or there to illustrate a point, but if the rest of the record doesn’t support the point thusly illustrated the point will be rejected. I ended up thinking about that a lot in contrast with all the conversations in church where someone would say, “The Bible says [paraphrase of thing everyone knew* was somewhere in the Bible] so I know I have to do it.” The more I thought about such things the more annoyed I became with them.

    I don’t think I knew the term “clobber verse” at the time. I do know that I instinctively knew what clobber verses (or, really, clobber-made-up-crap) were and I reacted negatively to them. That’s also where history came in, since I had a religious studies minor and for the first time I looked at Christianity as a historian rather than trying to look at history as a Christian. It’s really hard to accept the ascendancy of clobber texts when you realize that the Bible was constructed in the same manner as any other ancient text and includes any number of disputed parts.

    It’s really hard for someone who didn’t grow up with that sort of thing to understand. It’s similarly hard for someone who is still in that world to understand why people on the outside don’t accept, “Well, the Bible says…” as an actual argument. Everyone ends up talking past each other. Which is awkward.

    *”Everyone knowing” it’s in the Bible does not, of course, mean it’s actually in the Bible. For instance, a lot of people “know” that “The Lord helps those who help themselves” is somewhere in the Bible. It most certainly is not, unless Ben Franklin wrote the Bible.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    Are you telling me there aren’t writings of Ben Franklin tucked away between Colossians and Jude? If there aren’t, there should be.

  • AnonaMiss

    Though Franklin himself was paraphrasing an older source – “The gods help those who help themselves” shows up in Aesop’s Fables.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Interesting. I noted while going through the Gospel of Thomas that it referenced a proverb attributed to Aesop.

  • LL

    So, these people’s argument is:

    “Waaah, the parts that tell me to love people and treat them with mercy don’t work for me, so they don’t count, waaah …”

    Explains a lot.

    Maybe that’s why they’re all so vehemently “anti-abortion,” because it satisfies their biblical text’s “be nice to people” rule (babies! how can anyone not like babies?) while leaving them free to be as assholish as they want to the people they wanted to be assholish to all along: the gays, the feminists, the poors, the coloreds.

    I’m sure this point’s been made before, maybe even by Fred, but it’s worth repeating. That’s why the anti-abortion people are so creepy to me. It’s so obvious (they often don’t even bother covering this up) they couldn’t possibly care less about the rest of us, compared to the precious unborn. I feel bad for these people’s families. And really anyone they come in contact with. Most of them seem extremely hateful and utterly unconcerned with the welfare of anyone who exists outside of a uterus.

  • Albanaeon

    They aren’t even all that concerned with the intra-uterine given the general.
    lack of support for prenatal healthcare and maternity leave and wages that would allow one to properly care for a fetus while its developing and regulating corporations so they aren’t poisoning it and….

  • Fusina

    Yeah, well that would require actual, ya know, work. I don’t think a lot of them like that word. Sacrifice is another one, unless it is someone else doing it.

    Sorry about the snarkiness of above, I had a rough day yesterday, involving sacrifices I made to help someone else out–and I did it gladly, as she needed help, but I am so peeved with people who would take away what little help she has to make a point to their constituency that they are being thrifty.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Yes, and they’re also really mean to actual babies once they’re born. Feed hungry children? But then a poor single black woman somewhere might not be quite miserable enough, and we can’t have that!

    They’re also at the forefront of the “spare the rod and spoil the child” bullshit.

  • Wednesday

    They’re also at the forefront of the “spare the rod and spoil the child” bullshit.

    Fun fact*: That phrase does not occur in the bible (although the concept does), and instead originates in the poem “Hudibras” by Samuel Butler. In context “spare the rod and spoil the child” seems to be about spanking, but, um, not the kind used to discipline children. *cough*

    *I consider this a fun fact, because it gives me a little bit of grim amusement when fundies use that phrase to justify hurting children, and leaves me tempted to make comments about how they accuse _liberals_ of corrupting children with kinky sexual practices.

  • octopod42

    Oh dear, just looked it up in “Hudibras”. You’re not kidding. O_O;; I mean, the phrase is obviously intended as a reference to the Proverb; but in context, Hudibras is imprisoned in the stocks after some fool-ass stunt and I think this lady is trying to convince him to let her whip him as a show of penance and self-discipline before she lets him out.

  • Boze Herrington

    Interestingly, Relevant Magazine just released an article with a similar message:


  • Boze Herrington

    Best quote: “In my (biased) view, many folks “have faith” in Christianity because
    they believe Christianity is “right.” In other words, that it’s
    historically true, morally sound and spiritually resonant. But once
    they’ve taken the name “Christian” and now stand on the “right side,”
    they reverse-engineer their newfound faith to match their long-standing
    beliefs, biases and preferences.”

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Makes me think of a piece I copied down recently from a Mercedes Lackey book, Redoubt.

    What always happens when religion goes to the bad? Power. The love of power overcomes the love of the gods. Priests stop listening for the voice in their hearts and souls–which is very, very hard to hear even at the best of times–and start to listen only to what they wish to hear or to the voice of their own selfish desires. Priests begin to believe that they, and not the gods, are the real authorities. Priests confine broad truths into narrow doctrines, because more rules mean that they have more power. Priests mistake their own prejudice for conscience and mistake what they personally fear for what should universally be feared. Priests look inward to their own small souls and try to impress that smallness on the world, when they should be looking at the greatness of the universe and trying to impress that upon their souls. Priests forget they owe everything to their gods and begin to think the world owes everything to them.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    And on this note, discovering that the Southern Baptist Convention has a chief executive officer at its highest rank, who affirms five pledges, one of which emphasizing the value of money…

    No pun intended, but holy shit.

  • JustinL

    Page 1 of a book says “Kill no one.” Page 2 says “Kill everyone.”

    Would you live your life by this book? Would you say this book is full of morality while ignoring the reprehensible awfulness waiting just one page away? Would you not question the sincerity or even the sanity of the person who supposedly wrote it?

    The inquisitor, whether knowingly or not, brings up a great point: the source material is unreliable.

  • FearlessSon

    All the more reason to read it with a critical eye and a take a more holistic interpretation instead of trying to assume every passage is entirely true at face value devoid of context, as those clobber-verse types are fond of doing.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Though, I’m not sure context helps much against mutually contradictory commandments, like Deuteronomy 5:17 and Deuteronomy 13 (which are basically “Kill no one” and “Kill everyone”)…

  • FearlessSon

    Yeah, but each of those is part of the context of the other. What does it mean when two parts of the Bible cancel each other out?

    It means that maybe people ought to not use individual passages from the Bible as infallible commandments.

  • swbarnes2

    The thing about Fred’s take is that he is arguing that Mercy and Justice are good things because that’s what that text says. Both sides agree that the first thing to do when trying to figure something out is to read a text. Not to look at the world, not to ask people what their experiences are, but to read a text. Fred doesn’t want to play War, but he’s still insisting on using cards one way or another. We can’t solve 21st century problems like that.

  • Wednesday

    The translations I’m seeing of Deuteronomy 5:17 render it as “don’t murder”, meaning don’t kill people _unlawfully_ (in this case, the law being the at-the-time Jewish law and its definition of murder**). Deuteronomy 13 would be an example of lawful killing, as would all of the “put them to death” requirements in Leviticus.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Yeah, but come on. A law that says “Don’t kill people unlawfully” doesn’t strike me as a very useful law.

  • Wednesday

    *scratches head* Really? Well, clearly your mileage varies, but I personally support the existence of laws which prohibit killing other people under most circumstances but carving out exceptions for self-defence and defence of others in certain circumstances. I’d be happy if those laws also allowed for physician-assisted death for people with terminal illnesses under specific and carefully-overseen circumstances. And while I hate war, as a practical matter I am glad that we have laws distinguishing between soldiers killing enemy soldiers (lawful) and killing civilians (unlawful).

    The existence of laws against unlawful killing are pretty universal (even if details differ from country to country or state to state), so that would suggest that most people recognize them as useful laws to have.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. I have no problems with laws that declare certain forms of killing unlawful. But that’s not what this verse does. It simply says “don’t kill anyone unlawful.” It does not give a guide to what distinguishes a lawful killing from an unlawful one and vice versa.

    In effect, this law adds nothing. It could be removed completely, as it’s actually other laws that provide insight into what killings are lawful and what ones are unlawful. And those laws don’t need this one to “back them up.”

  • dpolicar

    Similarly, “honor your father and mother” doesn’t specify what constitutes honoring, “don’t steal” doesn’t specify what constitutes theft rather than lawful property exchange, and so forth.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Well, no. But there’s no second law saying “stealing unlawfully is against the law,” either.

    That’s what having a law that says “don’t kill unlawfully” is effectively doing: It’s saying, “hey, this thing that this other law already says is unlawful? It’s unlawful. Don’t do it.”

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    But there’s no second law saying “stealing unlawfully is against the law,” either.

    Er… you’re forgetting taxes, JarredH.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I’m not going there, and I resent the attempted derail into “taxes are theft” bullshit.

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    I sense we’re talking past each other.

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

    I sense that you are attempting a derail.

  • dpolicar

    (shrug) In the same sense that “murder” means to kill unlawfully, “steal” means to take property unlawfully.

    Therefore, if “don’t murder” is a useless law because it doesn’t specify what is lawful and unlawful killing, it seems to follow that “don’t steal” is a useless law because it doesn’t specify what is lawful and unlawful property-taking.

    Conversely, if we can assume that “theft” and “murder” were common Hebrew words and that members of the relatively small nomadic tribe had a common understanding of what those words meant, then maybe we can accept that “don’t murder” and “don’t steal” were perfectly meaningful injunctions.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    “steal” means to take property unlawfully.

    Except that’s not how I define “steal.” I define stealing as “taking that which belongs to someone else and claiming it as your own.”

    I don’t think that stealing or murder are wrong because they are against the law. I want stealing and murder to be against the law because they are wrong. Ultimately, proposing a definition of either word in which the law itself becomes central to its definition defeats that important distinction, in my opinion.

  • Wednesday

    Well, a lot of people have a functional definition of murder that does not match the legal definition, the central idea being something along the lines of “killing innocent people” or “morally wrongful killing”. PETA and other militant herbivore groups say “meat is murder” not because they think killing animals for food is unlawful, but because they want to argue it’s wrongful killing.

    I emphasized that murder in the context of Deuteronomy, murder meant unlawful killing according to the OT law, because the King James mistranslation of that commandment is a favorite attempted-clobberverse of anti-legal-abortion activists, who with rare exceptions don’t seem to be concerned that, without the context of OT law, there’s no reason to limit “thou shalt not kill” to just killing humans….

    So, having commandments against theft and murder make sense even in advance of issuing definitions of theft and murder. You then go on to hammer out the fine details of these things, including not only definitions but punishments. Which is exactly what seems to be the case in the OT.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    I emphasized that murder in the context of Deuteronomy, murder meant unlawful killing according to the OT law, because the King James mistranslation of that commandment is a favorite attempted-clobberverse of anti-legal-abortion activists, who with rare exceptions don’t seem to be concerned that, without the context of OT law, there’s no reason to limit “thou shalt not kill” to just killing humans….

    I totally get that. I will note, however, that the person you responded to with your definition of murder wasn’t trying to use Deuteronomy 5:17 as a clobber verse against abortion. Zie was juxtaposing it against Deuteronomy chapter 13. Deuteronomy 13 says to kill people who try to get you to follow other gods. That’s a “lawful killing” (at least lawful according to Deuteronomy) that I’d personally still consider murder.

    Again. I have no problem saying that there are those instances where killing is neither murder nor immoral. I just have a problem with the idea of there being a law for or against it being the deciding factor.

  • Wednesday

    I totally get that. I will note, however, that the person you responded to with your definition of murder wasn’t trying to use Deuteronomy 5:17 as a clobber verse against abortion.

    Oh, certainly. I was just explaining why, as a general rule, I emphasize that said commandment is one against murder as defined by OT law, not against killing in general.

    I just have a problem with the idea of there being a law for or against it being the deciding factor.

    Ah, see, I thought you were saying it was functionally useless to have laws against killing people unlawfully, either because of the redundancy of the phrasing, or because of something else I wasn’t understanding. This being the Slacktivist commentariat, I assumed that for all but trolls there’s pretty much universal agreement here that Because It’s Against The Rules is not the primary factor in determining morality of an action. :)

  • dpolicar

    I suspect we’re altogether failing to communicate.

    For my own part, I would say that when I purchased my car, I took something that belonged to someone else and claimed it as my own. I wouldn’t call it stealing though, because the way I went about doing it met various other criteria (e.g., it happened with the owner’s consent).

    I suspect you, also, would agree that I didn’t steal my car. So I suspect that the quotation you provide above isn’t quite how you define “steal”.

    Of course, you could certainly say that you instead define stealing as “taking that which belongs to someone else without their consent and claiming it as your own,” for example.

    And I could point out that if the owner were unaware of the transaction but had previously authorized the seller to sell it, it still wouldn’t be theft… and you could add “…or the consent of their authorized agent…”

    And I could point out that if an unauthorized agent fraudulently sold me the car, I would still not have stolen it…. and you could add “…or a good-faith presumption of such consent…”

    And we could keep going along these lines.

    Or I could say “Don’t steal!” and rely on our shared understanding of what that means.

    And I could say “Don’t murder!” and rely on our shared understanding of what that means.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    Or I could say “Don’t steal!” and rely on our shared understanding of what that means.

    And I could say “Don’t murder!” and rely on our shared understanding of what that means.

    Well yes, we could avoid the rules lawyering altogether. But that’s my point. Trying to define murder as “unlawful killing” and theft as “unlawful taking” is rules lawyering (and self-defeating, self-referential rules lawyering at that) too, and I think it’s best avoided.

  • dpolicar


    So, back at the beginning of this thread, AnonymousSam characterized Deuteronomy 5:17 as “Kill no one,” and Wednesday replied that Deuteronomy 5:17 is actually an injunction against murder, which is not the same thing as killing. She then characterized “don’t murder” as “don’t kill people _unlawfully_ (in this case, the law being the at-the-time Jewish law and its definition of murder**).”

    You replied:

    Yeah, but come on. A law that says “Don’t kill people unlawfully” doesn’t strike me as a very useful law.

    From which I inferred that you were claiming that Deuteronomy 5:17 wasn’t useful. But now it sounds like you agree that “don’t murder” is a useful thing to say, and is a different thing to say from “don’t kill”, so if I assume you haven’t changed your mind about anything anywhere along the line, I have to conclude that I’ve missed your point altogether.

    I apologize for that misunderstanding.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    I seem to recall Exodus or Leviticus having a law that says “Follow the laws,” if that helps. ~_^

  • Alix

    Well, except I don’t think it’s so much declaring what forms of killing are unlawful as the reverse: some killings are declared lawful, and “don’t murder” is saying you don’t get to go beyond that. It’s saying “no killing with these exceptions,” really.

    Whether or not that fits with things like the genocide passages and others is left to the individual, but “don’t murder – and by murder we mean no killings we haven’t explicitly allowed” is … pretty standard for legal codes, actually.

  • http://blog.trenchcoatsoft.com Ross

    It would be if Leviticus had the equivalent of the ninth amendment.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    That would make so much more sense.

  • MarkTemporis

    It would be really funny if the ‘put them to death’ requirements triggered the ‘don’t kill’ proscription and mandated an unending line of executioners standing ready to execute the previous executioner.

  • Dave Empey

    And so we straight let out on bail
    A convict from the county jail,
    Whose head was next
    On some pretext
    Condemned to be mown off,
    And made him Headsman, for we said,
    “Who’s next to be decapited
    Cannot cut off another’s head
    Until he’s cut his own off,
    His own off, his own off,
    Until he’s cut his own off.

  • octopod42

    And that’s why it’s important to thoroughly debug your holy writ.

  • http://accidental-historian.typepad.com/ Geds

    those clobber-verse types

    So…I just read that as “Clobberverse types.” Now I’m trying to decide how one would live in the Clobberverse. I’m assuming everyone there would be somehow related to The Thing. Or have severe head trauma.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Clobberverse is the Slacktiverse’s bizarro equivalent. I’m pretty sure you can find it in the orthodox Christian portals on Patheos.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Eternal Fight Club, maybe?

  • Николай Крутиков

    A better example would be a political manifesto of a Black Hundrend-ish group that calls on people to kill the Jews after extolling the virtue, justice, mercy and humility of the same people. The way to interpret such a manifesto would not to insist that it isn’t anti-Jewish because see, it extolls mercy and humility, but to conclude that for its authors, justice, mercy and humility don’t include not killing Jews, and, in fact, may mandate it.

    There’re two ways to solve that contradiction when it comes to the Bible. One is to go around reinterpreting the “clobber verses”. The other one, the better one, is just to renounce Biblical infallibility, which, like mentioned in further comments, some varieties of Judaism did (they couldn’t rely on ‘jesus cancelled everything’ and ‘it’s ambigious’ techniques, since Leviticus indeed offers fewer ways of reinterpretation then the NT verses).

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Of course, you quote Galatians 5:22-23… and they’ll just quote Galatians 5:19-21. Clobbered.

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Then again, there is one clobber verse that cuts through all the bullshit.

    Love, be compassionate, be merciful, be tender, be faithful, be forgiving–

    Or there will be no one to love.

    we lost the ability to love our gay son, because we no longer had a gay son. What we had wished for, prayed for, hoped for — that we would not have a gay son — came true. But not at all in the way we had envisioned.

  • ReverendRef

    and they’ll just quote Galatians 5:19-21. Clobbered.

    “Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

    Okay . . . let’s start with “fornication.” It’s defined as voluntary sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. So if we provide for marriage equality, this condemnation goes away because all those gays who are having icky gay sex might actually want to live with a person they love in a committed marital relationship.

    Let’s talk about jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions and factions. How many RTC’s are jealous that gays are being given “special rights” (read, “treated as equally as me”)? How many RTC’s are angry over marriage equality, quarrel with other Christians and non-Christians? How many RTC’s devise political factions with the sole intent of keeping “Those People” out of churches and from participating in general equality?

    So, in this card game of Biblical Clobber Verses, I’m thinking that one from Galatians is rather on the weak side.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Sheesh, that’s a rough verse. Anyone who’s even angry ever won’t inherit the Kingdom of God? I wonder if that’s a translation of a word with a different connotation.

    (The fact that dissension is also not allowed seems awfully convenient.)

  • ReverendRef

    I think there’s a translation issue. This list has a variety of different words throughout the translations. What I typed as “factions” comes through as “heresies” in other places.

    Regarding “anger,” William Barclay uses “uncontrolled temper;” and another commentator used “fits of rage.”

    What they seem to be getting at here is the hot-headed, temper tantrum-type of behavior, where if you don’t get your way or are questioned or simply faced with a dissenting opinion you fly off into a fit of angry rage.

    Which brings me to “dissension.” It’s a translation thing again and doesn’t necessarily mean to dissent or hold a differing opinion.

    Again, William Barclay points to this word as “standing apart,” where the members of the church are focused on selfish desires so that there is no unity. Another source I have says that dissensions refers to “selfish striving for position and power.”

    So, yeah, the list doesn’t necessarily condemn how we understand or use those words; although most of them do carry over.

  • caryjamesbond

    Yes, but as soon as you start going “well, translation, context” YOU AREN’T READING THE WORD OF GOD, ARE YOU? God said it, I believe it, that settles it!

  • http://anonsam.wordpress.com/ AnonymousSam

    Ah, in my translation, “fornication” is “sexual immorality”… which covers so, so much more when it’s that vague.

    I should look up the KJV to see what it is in their book. :p

  • ReverendRef

    An elderly deacon I once knew read “sexual immorality” as “sexual immortality.”

    Someone said to me, “I want some of that!”

  • FearlessSon

    Considering that sex is the means by which humans and many other species propagate genes beyond the lifespan of the mortal organisms they both inhabit and shape, we might indeed say that sexuality is immortality.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Bzzt, heteronormativity.

  • FearlessSon

    Ouch! My bad.

    Excuse me, I just hit myself hard enough that I started bleeding.

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

    Did you seriously call the biological mechanism of sexual reproduction “heteronormative”?

    There is a marine species a friend of mine told me about in which the male and female interchange at will as needed to reproduce.

    There is some funky-ass shit that goes on in the exchange of genes that is part of the successor generation creation and I don’t see how you can call that heteronormative unless you specifically chose to focus only on the “humans” part of FearlessSon’s statement.

  • EllieMurasaki

    I was focusing on the ‘sexuality is immortality’ part of it. Baby-making sexuality may be immortality, but any other flavor of sexuality? Not so much.

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    There’s such a thing as baby-making sex, but is there such a thing as baby-making sexuality? Maybe the Duggars.

    Also, baby-making sex isn’t always between a heterosexual cisman and a heterosexual ciswoman.

  • EllieMurasaki

    So I was supposed to let the ‘sexuality is immortality’ remark fly past even though it’s patently bullshit to anyone who isn’t someone who has [potentially] baby-making sex?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    I don’t see the bullshit in this case at all. I don’t have potentially baby-making sex, except by the standards of the Catholic Church’s “twist into a pretzel, close your eyes, and wish real hard cuz Sarah” ridiculousness. My husband cannot impregnate me. Also, when you say it’s “heteronormative”, there’s an assumption that heterosexuals have baby-making sex and non-heterosexuals don’t. Which is, er, patently bullshit.

    Sexual reproduction is how our species propagates itself, thereby leading to a sort of biological immortality. There are other kinds of ways we could talk about immortality, but baby-making makes perfect sense as one of them. That some people do not make babies does not mean that it’s not a kind of immortality for the people who do.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Let me try rephrasing my point. In any discussion of sexuality, either all sexuality is meant or there is some qualifying factor involved. Not all people who have sex have potentially baby-making sex. Therefore, if baby-making sex is immortality, not all sexuality is being discussed. So the statement ‘sexuality is immortality’ still gets a bzzt. ‘Heteronormativity’ may be the wrong word to explain the bzzt, but it’s the closest single word to what I’m thinking.

  • Wednesday

    It’s worth noting that there are actually several species of whiptail lizards that reproduces via parthenogenesis. These species are all female, and in order to trigger the hormones to start producing eggs, they need to have sex with other lizards of their species.

  • steven919

    As a pro-gay atheist I’m conflicted here. In the short run I hope you win your argument with the homophobes, even if I find your arguments terribly unconvincing. I’ve read the bible and it can easily be used to promote economic eqaulity, but to get the bible to promote sexual equality you have to do an awful lot of twisting and lawyering.

    I have it much easier. I can just say that we should completely ignore the bible with all it’s bigoted content.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    Yeah, you don’t have to think at all

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    WTF? Elaborate, please. How does ignoring the Bible entail not thinking?

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    I was responding to “I have it much easier”- in other words, he apparently doesn’t need to wrestle with questions of spirit or text, of how to construct a viable morality, or any of the questions at issue here, because of the blissful ease that evidently comes with atheism

  • http://againstjebelallawz.wordpress.com/ Enopoletus Harding

    There’s no need to wrestle with the Biblical text if one’s an atheist. I accept the text as it is, unless I want to show the Bible does not support some political agenda I don’t like. Also, there’s no “blissful ease that evidently comes with atheism”. Questions of morality still exist whether or not one accepts the Bible as the Word o’ Omnipotent Brainless Thinker.

  • swbarnes2

    Isn’t there enough data in the world, enough experiences of people to assimilate and wrestle with?

    Have you finished all that, that you have time to wrestle with a text too?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    Ignoring the Bible is a head-in-the-sand approach and doesn’t really work. The Bible is an incredibly important historical document and is incredibly important to extremely powerful people and groups today. Deciding that since you’re not of a religion that follows it, you can just ignore it, is a decision that leaves you ignorant of things you really need to know.

    When you say we should completely ignore the Bible, full stop, you’re telling people to stop being the religion there are. There is no wiggle room. While saying “we should not consider the Bible when making secular laws” works, saying “we” should just completely ignore the Bible altogether is demanding other people come over to your side before you’ll discuss anything with them. I see very little difference between that and people who say we should follow what’s in the Bible simply because it’s in the Bible.

    Besides, there’s some good stuff in the Bible, just as there is in the Koran, the Torah, the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Ramayana, etc.

  • Patrick

    Fundamentalists can’t just cite clobber texts and claim that all conversation is over.

    But if your “biblical case” for something contradicts the clear and obvious content of its clobber texts, then somewhere you’ve gone wrong.

    At best, you can say that there are multiple biblical cases, of which yours is one. But that’s often just a kind way of saying that you’re BOTH wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomstone Thomas Stone

    The explanation is that the Bible is a work of thousands of years of oral history mashed into a series of narratives and automatically contradicts itself over and over again. It is literally impossible to say that one believes ‘what the Bible says’ and have a totally self consistent worldview. Therefore, one must choose to assume that various parts of the text cannot or should not be taken at face value- and since, like, the whole second half is about maybe not being such an asshole, that seems like a reasonable way to differentiate between what means what.

    I mean, honestly, finding a throughline and using it to read a work for its overall meaning, despite various contradictions, is necessary to examine, like, Lawrence of Arabia. How is that not going to come up for something written by hundreds of people over millennia?

  • http://lliira.dreamwidth.org/ Lliira

    And Lawrence of Arabia was far more recent, and therefore much easier to understand. Most of the Bible was probably written at least a couple millennia ago.

    I used to wonder if God had been trying to reach people to expand on the Bible for the last couple thousand years, but people had been refusing to hear Her.

  • Николай Крутиков

    It’s easier to find out what a particular verse meant to its author, though.

  • Patrick

    You’re right that the Bible is “a work of thousands of years of oral history mashed into narratives and automatically contradicts itself over and over.”

    You should stop there.

    Anything further is no longer exegesis.

    Which is fine, I suppose, as long as you don’t claim to be engaged in exegesis.

  • Sandbur

    Jesus replied, “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were
    hard. But it was not this way from the beginning. I tell you that
    anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries
    another woman commits adultery.” The disciples said to him, “If this is the
    situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.” Jesus
    replied, “Not
    everyone can accept this word, but only those to whom it has been given.
    FOR SOME ARE EUNUCHS BECAUSE THEY WERE BORN THAT WAY; others were made that way by men; and others have renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. The one who can accept this should accept it.” Matthew 19:8-12


    For thus says the LORD,
    “To the eunuchs who keep My Sabbaths,
    And choose what pleases Me,
    And hold fast My covenant,
    To them I will give in My house and within My walls a
    And a name better than that of sons and
    I will give them an everlasting name which
    will not be cut off.“–Isaiah 56:4-5

  • kwdayboise

    Read shallowly, the Bible is prime fodder for both fundamentalists and, oddly, atheists. I think that’s probably why many “liberal Christians” eventually their up their hands in frustration and walk away. Even if we do win a game of Bible clobber, or at least get close enough to make the other person uncomfortable, the game changes to name-calling.

  • Kagi Soracia

    Crying now. That has always been my favourite verse, partly for this very reason. It sums everything up. But my family would never hear it in an argument either.