‘Bible Believers’ who do not know, or care, what the Bible says

‘Bible Believers’ who do not know, or care, what the Bible says June 21, 2012

Joe Jervis relays a Twitter exchange between Anderson Cooper and some other Joe:


For those who can’t read that image, the guy tells Cooper that “Jesus calls homosexuality sin and calls them [sic] to repent.” Cooper replies, “actually, Joe, factually speaking, Jesus never mentioned anything about gays.”

It’s disappointing that some folks who want to call upon a Bible vs. Gays appeal to authority don’t realize that. Many do, of course — plenty of anti-gay conservatives are extremely well-versed (pun intended) in what the Bible does and does not actually say about their favorite topic.

But then there are people like this guy who seem to have no idea. They’ll tell you that “Jesus calls homosexuality sin” or that “the Bible says abortion is wrong” despite neither claim being true.

If Jesus had anything at all to say about “homosexuality” or about abortion, then none of his followers considered it something worth recording. In the Bible, Jesus is completely silent on those two topics — the same two things that many American Christians seem to believe are of paramount importance.

The problem seems to be that these folks like the idea of the Bible more than the actual Bible we actually have. This idea of the Bible can be cited as an authority against gays or against abortion without ever needing to consult the actual Bible.

Those of us who read the actual Bible find only a tiny handful of passages dealing with homosexuality — the so-called “clobber verses” condemning it, the meaning and application of which is open to dispute. And as for abortion, there’s nothing anywhere in the Bible that can even be twisted into a “clobber verse” condemning it. (Although very recent politicized translations have tried to manufacture one.)

Cooper’s patient response to his Jesus-invoking critic is commendable, but probably pointless. Cooper is dealing here with someone who invokes Jesus and the Bible as an appeal to authority, but who doesn’t really know or care what Jesus or the Bible have to say. When people like that shout about “Jesus says …” or “the Bible says …” it doesn’t help to ask where, or to point out what Jesus or the Bible actually say, because such people don’t care. They just like pretending that some unquestionable authority is on their side, because they think that this makes their authority unquestionable too.

See also: Tea-party appeals to the idea of the Constitution, which tend to be wholly ignorant of, and unconcerned with, the actual content of the actual Constitution.

* * * * * * * * *

For another good — or, rather, appalling — illustration of the way that many people who regard themselves as “Bible Believers” do not seem to know or care what those Bibles actually say, see this report from Leah Nelson at HateWatch, “Armed With Pig’s Head, Christians Confront Michigan Muslims“:

Muslims in Dearborn, Mich., were once again targeted for their beliefs on Friday when a group of protesters calling themselves the “Bible Believers” confronted celebrants at the city’s annual Arab International Festival with a pig’s head on a spike and signs decrying Islam as a false religion, the Detroit Free Press reports.

In addition to the pig’s head – presumably intended to offend observant Muslims, who do not eat pork – Bible Believers reportedly carried signs calling Islam “a religion of blood and murder” and describing the Islamic prophet Muhammad as a “liar,” “false prophet,” “murderer” and “child molesting pervert.”

… Bible Believers is headed by Ruben Israel Chavez, a self-described “street preacher” from Los Angeles who runs the website Official Street Preachers, on which he rails against “homo sex,” Mormons, “drunkards,” Mardi Gras, “Pot Smoking Devils,” Billy Graham, and Oprah Winfrey, among others.

“Among others.”

Writing for Christianity Today, Jeremy Weber refers to the so-called Bible Believers’ outreach as “an evangelism FAIL.” Weber also notes that Arab Christian leaders in Dearborn have asked these purportedly Christian outside groups to knock it off with this stuff already.

Arab Christian leaders in Dearborn criticize such efforts by outside groups, including a high-profile 2010 incident involving Acts 17 Apologetics, as ill-informed and counter-productive. One reason: The majority of Arab Americans are Christians not Muslims.

I would clarify that last point: That many of the people being harassed by these belligerent “evangelists” are themselves Christian is “one reason” that such harassment is ironic and darkly comic. But it’s not “one reason” why such harassment is wrong.

Crusaders of one form or another have always wound up attacking just as many fellow-Christians as the Muslims they first intended to attack. Such behavior is wrong for a host of reasons that do not depend on the religious identity of its victims. It is no less wrong when  directed at Muslims than when directed at Christians. It’s just wrong, period.

* * * * * * * * *

Here’s a bet: In the bit above about the Anderson Cooper tweet, I mention that Jesus had nothing to say about homosexuality and abortion. At no point did I attempt to leap from that factual statement to the unsupported conclusion that therefore Jesus must have approved of both. But I’m betting that won’t stop at least one person from criticizing that factual reference to Jesus’ silence as an “argument from silence.”

This seems to be one of those phrases memorized by certain people out of the Dirty Hungarian Phrasebook of Fallacies. They seem to understand just enough of the idea to think that it means any mention of silence constitutes an opportunity to whip out this smart-sounding phrase and use it to denounce the mentioner.

Second bet: Someone will criticize that bit above as an “argument from silence” even despite my making the prophylactic bet in the previous paragraphs.

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  • SayBlade

     This is the problem with crowds who are led by people who practice dismal Biblical scholarship.  When I was kid in Baptist Sunday school we were taught that we could ask questions about the Bible and learned that sometimes the questions were hard to answer or that “I don’t know” was an appropriate answer.  An openness and willingness to say “Let’s find out together,”  and  “What do you think?” were also wise features of the discussion.

  • redsixwing

    the life and death of the bodily soul

    Aside from being the coolest band name I’ve seen all week, what does this mean?
    I’m serious; I can’t seem to parse it.

    Life and death, I track. But “bodily soul?” Are we implying that the soul -is- the body? Is this a way of saying “embodied soul?”  Or perhaps it’s a reference to “the life and death of a person” using soul as synechdoche?

    Either way, it’s a very pleasing turn of phrase.

    Edited to reduce snark level.

  • I think that passage was about not adding or subtracting to that book.  These are the words of John, leave them as they are.  Or something like that.  It wouldn’t have been about not adding to or subtracting from the Bible as a whole because the Bible wasn’t a thing yet and more than that, even if the Bible were a thing, it itself would have been an addition. 

  • AnonymousSam

    I prefer Fred’s interpretation of that particular section — the one which emphasizes Peter’s revelatory exclamation, “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” That’s a little more meaningful to me than what we can and cannot eat now.

  • Johnsmithofamerica


    You are an idolator and will burn in hell.

  • There were and are sects that reject the idea of a soul as being an immortal and immanent separate aspect of a human. Instead, they say that based on the exact Hebrew used in the OT, humans ARE souls that die, but God being all-powerful, that’s no barrier to resurrection later on.

  • VMink

    That was active propaganda by the Church, actually.  They were very careful to not let people know that L.Ron was dead, in part because of the circumstances of his death.  They wanted people to think he had ascended to a higher plane of existence; like most people, they and their suckers — er, adherents are/were terrified of death, and did not want to think that if it could come for their visionary prophet, it could and would come for them.

    The book Bare-Faced Messiah, is a fascinating/horrifying read.  I highly recommend it with a handful of trigger warnings, particularly towards the latter half of the book where the abuses of Scientology are gone into.

  • VMink

    Posts like this have renewed my interest in mathematics. <3

  • redsixwing

     Ah, OK. Thanks for the clarification.

  • Au_catboy

     So, James, you say jesus “supported the death penalty for disobedient older children”?  Well, if that’s the case, then jesus was a monstrous sociopath, and completely unworthy of worship. 

    You have made your god in your own image, James.  It’s not wonder your god is a sick, hateful, murderous bastard just like you.

  •  By that logic, Jesus has got some serious explaining to do regarding the Song of Songs…

    That almost made me spit out my water.  On the other hand, there are some older traditions that some very interesting interpretations of that book…

  • Au_catboy

     Ah, so Republicans are all Sodomites!  And you support their bigoted insanity because you worship a god of pure evil, and you’re just waiting for it to slaughter your countrymen so you can gleefully watch them die.  What a worthless piece of shit you are, Theophile!

  • This. I had a friend in high school in 1980 who was a Christian Armenian refugee – but her part of Armenia was in Iran, so they went from being oppressed there to being hassled here over the Iran hostage situation.

    This is why my grandmother rocks: She’d got bored with being retired so she was a cashier at the high school cafeteria. The principal of the school called my friend in to grill her over what “her people” were doing with the hostages. My grandmother found out and ripped him a new one over it. Even got him to apologize.

  • she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.'”

    Something just struck me: how does that go in the original? Because that’s not even close to the etymology of the English word:

    late O.E. a compound of wif “woman” +man “human being” (in Old English used in reference to both sexes; see man (n.))

    man: Sense of “adult male” is late (c.1000); O.E. used wer and wif to distinguish the sexes, but wer began to disappear late 13c. and was replaced by man

    “wer” has pretty much only survived in werewolf. 

  • *doubletake*

    Huh. At first glance I thought that was someone else refuting Theophile’s narrow interpretation of what the “sins” of Sodom actually were.

  • As a matter of fact, RTC’s are faced with the problem of worshiping a God who himself violated all the understood rules of ‘Real Manhood’ that he supposedly demands from all human males.  Orthodox Christianity teaches that Jesus never ‘conquered’ a woman and made no attempt to defend himself when under physical attack.  I’m sure the internal mental gymnastics involved here are very interesting. 

    Unfortunately, some of them resolve that cognitive dissonance in unhealthy ways.  Mark Driscoll the Shithead started his pastoral career out of a desire to reclaim a Christian culture he saw as being too “feminized” and “limp-wristed.”  

    No amount of reason, pleading, or a willingness to endure suffering to redeem another will convince a person like that, they will only see it as further proof that their strong-arm approach is superior.  

  • Well, the Hebrew words translated “man” and “woman” are “אִישׁ” (eesh) and “אִשָּׁה” (eesha), respectively. So the common morpheme is there. I don’t think there’s any kind of precise etymology being claimed.

  • “Clobber-verse” sounds like something from Marvel Comics.  A parallel universe, perhaps, where Ben Grimm is God?

    There are so many bits of culture war jargon that would make awesome super-villain names:  

    “Clobber-Verse”, an anti-gay crusader who literally thumps people over the head with a bible.  

    “The Gay Agenda”, who fights to make homosexuality not only accepted, but mandatory.  

    “Death Panel”, a bureaucratic doctor who cures society’s sickness by deciding who lives and who dies.  

    “The Silver Ring”, who’s pathological fear of sexuality drives them to strike out at those who lose their virginity while unmarried.

  • VMink

    The climax of Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E. saw the titular team opposed by a variety of custom-grown (broccoli, specifically) (don’t ask) superhero teams.  One of these teams was “The Gay Agenda,” with expys of Apollo, Midnighter, Northstar, and a couple of others.  … Or they would be fighting Nextwave, as soon as they got back from the Pride parade in San Francisco.  All things considered, that was probably their best call, since Nextwave proceeded to wipe the floor with all the synthetic superhero teams who did show up.

    Nextwave is a bit bland, and has all sorts of sophomoric humor.  And I can’t stop giggling at it now and then.  And it’s wrong of me, I know, but I find all the heroes of Nextwave to be more interesting than any iteration of the X-Men.  Including Tabitha.

    That being said, ‘One Man Death Panel’ is my next COV character. XD

  • Actually, I kind of cribbed the name “The Gay Agenda” from MacHall’s “The Homosexual Agenda” (and also “The Nocturnal Abortion”.)  

  • Tricksterson

    The only problem with “The Gay Agenda” as a supervillain is that too many RTCs don’t think that’s a fiction.

  • ako

     #They committed abominations…(comment needed?)

    So your argument that the Bible declares homosexuality an abomination is that if you assume that the reference to Sodom committing abominations refers to homosexuality (and not, for instance, attempting to gang-rape passing strangers), then the Bible can be interpreted as condemning homosexuality as an abomination?

    Are you aware of the original definition of “Begging the question”?

  • Thanks for the info re LRH :)

  • The only problem with “The Gay Agenda” as a supervillain is that too many RTCs don’t think that’s a fiction.

    Which is part of why it would be such an awesome name for a super-villain.  Turn it into a parody, make the comic series absolutely goddamn ridiculous, get the public at large to associate the term more with the character than with RTC fears of a gay conspiracy.  Take the piss out of the entire idea.  

    After all, Mel Brooks once said something to the effect that the best way to get revenge on someone is to make people laugh at them.  

  • Shaenon

    Nextwave is bland? The Nextwave that has a two-page spread of the characters fighting a roomful of Elvis MODOKs?

    Man, people are hard to entertain nowadays.

  • PJ Evans

    A number of people (including me) believe that he was dead (or at least permanently vegetative) before the second volume of ‘Battlefield’ was written.

  •  I don’t think there’s any kind of precise etymology being claimed.

    Well, no. That looks like a KJV quote – great for poetry, not so much for literal meanings.

  • Theophile

     Hi Ako,
     But, attempting gang rape on passing strangers is what happened in Genesis 19 & Judges 19. Now we can try to get around the fact that these were attempted  homosexual rapes, but that is not the case. The Judges account was men wanting to rape the male stranger, settling for the female, in the Genesis account the male rapists refused the females. We can only conclude from the written accounts that these rapists were homosexual 1st, rapists 2nd.

  • One of the unfortunate subtexts of those reports is that the females were profferred at all. That implies that God apparently doesn’t care if men rape women because it’s not Teh Dirty Gaysex.

    Excuse me if I don’t suddenly rush to embrace a faith that can carry that kind of interpretation of its doctrinally holy book.

  • Au_catboy

     And yet, offering up one’s own daughters to be raped by a mob is what your cult considers the act of a righteous man?  Why should anyone think your god is anything other than a psychotic bully? 

    Theophile, you have dedicated yourself to the worship of a monstrous delusion.  Why?  Have you no self-respect?  Have you no sense of decency?

  • Theophile

     Either way homosexual gang rape, or just regular gang rape, isn’t either an abomination?

  • Au_catboy

     To a person with a shred of decency, rape is an abomination.  But to YOU, Theophile, it isn’t.  The only objection you seem to be able to imagine to homosexual gang rape is that it is homosexual, not that it is gang rape

  • EllieMurasaki

     You do know that it is almost invariably straight men who commit rape, yes?

  • EllieMurasaki

     Because it’s RAPE, not because it’s homosexual.

  • Lunch Meat

    So when gay people now, today, start committing gang rape in large numbers, then we can talk about how they’re bad people. Until then, stop bearing false witness and stop using the Bible as a weapon.

  • Tricksterson

    Apparently heterosexual gang rape is okay since the angels had no objection to Lot offering up his daughters to the mo.

  • LoneWolf343

     Well, yeah, so that means we are called to be witnesses!

    To Israel?

    No, everywhere! But it says Israel.

    Look, you have to read it in context.

    (Why, yes, the literalists do like to use the word “context” unironically.)

  • Theophile

    Umm..wrong, The angels apparently didn’t allow the mob to rape anyone, and struck them with blindness.  But the Judges 19 account has the rapists offered a woman instead of the male they desired, which they raped to death, Read Judges 19-20 to see the judgment on Benjamin over this heterosexual rape….It wasn’t okay.

  • Lori

     I can’t help but wonder if you’re willfully missing the point or if you’re just that unable to follow logic.

  • Tricksterson

    The angels only struck the crowd blind after it rejected Lot’s offer.  Remember a strong subplot of the whole story is how Lot, his faughters and their incestuois offspring are inferior to SAbraham’s line in order to justify the htred of the nation that supposedly sprung from their loins.  The Old Testament is full of shit like that.

  • addicted

    Why is logic so hard?

    Your argument is basically God said A is good, therefore B is bad. It fundamentally makes no sense.

  • Joshua

    But the Judges 19 account has the rapists offered a woman instead of the male they desired, which they raped to death 

    who they raped, not which they raped. Women are, in fact, people and not things.

  • Mouse

    If you’re reading this, then you are a human, and you are going to die, that means NOT EXIST at all – maybe in 50, 60, or 70 years, maybe sooner, it might be a good idea for you to take time to THINK about a few things and actually READ what both the Old Testament and New Testament teaches instead of ranting mere arrogance about it. Many of you are acting like *this* world is your permanent home. *This* life is EXTREMELY temporary, what part of that do you not understand.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Hi, Mouse, I’m an atheist, pleasure to meet you. I behave as though this life is all I’ve got because THIS LIFE IS ALL I’VE GOT.

  • Vaida_advaida

     We are all equally sinners… but some sinners are more equal than others.

  • E.A. Blair

    “The Bible contains 6 admonishments to homosexuals and 362 admonishments to heterosexuals. That doesn’t mean that God doesn’t love heterosexuals. It’s just that they need more supervision.”

     — Lynn Lavner

  • Orders

    Looking for a Bible in comic book form? Look up Christianbook.com and type in “comic book Bible”.