Bigots and the Bible

Rachel Held Evans has been running a series of posts in which she invites various people with different religious perspectives to answer questions left by her readers. The most recent post is Ask a Gay Christian, where Justin Lee, the director of the Gay Christian Network, has been responding.

There were a number of good questions. One of which Hemant picked up on: “Is it possible in your view for someone to disagree with you – to believe that the Bible consistently teaches sexual activity is intended for heterosexual marriage only – and for that person to not be a bigot, homophobe, motivated by ignorance or fear?”

Hemant threw this open for comments. Here’s my problem:

The Bible contains perhaps a dozen “clobber verses” against homosexuality. That number could shrink or grow depending on how you define words and whether or not you bring adultery into the conversation.

The Bible contains perhaps 200 verses on the topic of the poor and economic justice. Again, that number could shrink or grow. I’ve heard estimates as high as 300.

As I look at modern American Christianity, it seems to me that those numbers could have been reversed.

To evade the charge of bigotry, you need to do more than say that you sincerely believe that the Bible is against gay marriage. You need to explain why you take the clobber verses as something important and relevant to today, while the statements like “Let the man with two tunics share with him who has none,” aren’t.

There are arguments against taking the missional verses and the poverty verses and trying them to apply them today. Of course, many of those arguments could be turned against the clobber verses as well. Can it be shown that there is a consistent means of interpretation that would lead to the clobber verses being taken literally while the charity verses should be basically ignored?

Or think of it this way: would the hypothetical “man from Mars” who was innocent of Christianity and the culture wars really look at the Bible and come away saying, “Wow, we’ve really got to do something to stop gay marriage”?

Think about how this looks from the outside. The parts of the Bible that you believe apply today are the ones that require other people to make sacrifices. The parts of the Bible that would require YOU to make big sacrifices are not considered relevant. Look at it this way, and you’ll see why “bigot” is one of the nicer things you could be called.