‘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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  • Loki100

    Marvel does have a lot of space Jesuses? Jesusi? Plural of Jesus.

    Which is fitting because they have a lot of stand ins for God. Galactus, The Celestial Host, The Living Tribunal, Eternity, The High Evolutionary, Jack Kirby, and the One-Above-All.

  • The_L1985

    No, but if you believe yourself to be THAT good and pure, you generally don’t have much in the way of self-awareness to begin with.  They honestly think that no one can possibly dislike Truth, no matter how ugly it is, and that everything they believe is Truth, no matter how far-fetched.

    I am rapidly losing hope that my cousin will lose the weird Christian Patriarchy crap he’s buying into, and actually FIND the Jesus he claims to worship.

  • The_L1985

    Technically, we don’t KNOW that the people of Sodom were homosexual.  They may not have been attracted to the angels, and simply saw the strangers as an easy mark for humiliating rape.

    Rape =/= attraction.  Rape == violence.

    Also, Ezekiel 16:49.  Read it.  Learn it.

    By the way, Moses could not possibly have written all the first 5 books of the Bible. Deuteronomy describes his death. Bit hard for him to write about the circumstances of his own death before it happened! And dead people can’t write anything!

  • Tricksterson

    Nt too mention that a lot of Arab Americans re Christian because they or their parents came over due to life for a Christian in an overwhelmingly Muslim country can be, shall we say less than delightsome. 

  • Loki100

    Just a hint, when you cite something that begins with, “For this cause” you have to actually include the cause. But, of course, if you actually included the cause it wouldn’t make a particularly large amount of sense, or be particularly convincing.

    For context, “The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called ‘woman,’ for she was taken out of man.'” is the “for this cause.”

  • Rape =/= attraction.  Rape == violence.

    This also comes up when bigots rail against gays in the military. They love(d) to cite man-on-man rape statistics, while ignoring the fact that most of those are committed by straight men against (perceived or actual) gay men.

  • Tricksterson

    Hey I wouldn’t mind a Church of Ray Charles.  If Coltrane can have one, why not Ray?

  • I don’t think people even CITE that, they just say the title, right?

  • Loki100

    This also comes up when bigots rail against gays in the military. They love(d) to cite man-on-man rape statistics, while ignoring the fact that most of those are committed by straight men against (perceived or actual) gay men.

    It also comes up when they talk about child molestation. I’ve heard it more times than I can count that if a man rapes a male child he must be gay. The fact is that every scientific study into the subject (I know of six off the top of my head) has shown that it is virtually unheard of that an adult homosexual would molest a child. In fact, one study in Denver that looked at almost 300 cases of child abuse found that over 75% of male abusers of male children were in a sexual, heterosexual relationship at the time that the abuse occurred. And precisely zero could be actually shown to have homosexual inclinations.

    Rape is about power, not sex. Which is something that anyone with even the slightest bit of knowledge of what rape is, knows.

  • Falconer

     “Bit hard for him to write about the circumstances of his own death before it happened!”

    Perhaps he was dictating?

  • ako

      But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.(not male and male)

    Did Jesus specifically say “not male and male”, or are you adding your own words to a Bible quote?  Because you know what the Bible says  about

    adding

    words

    Or do you?  Have you actually sat down and read it yourself, or have all of your studies consisted of hearing and repeating out-of-context pick-and-choose prooftexts?

  • LL

    What’s most amusing to me is the hypocrisy of most people who are opposed to same-sex marriage (well, OK, the ones I’ve encountered here in TX and where I’m from, OK), how their own lives are a significant negation of the “Christian” standards they are apparently referencing in their position. 

    At least two of my coworkers have told me that they don’t think gays should be able to get married (to same-sex partners). Both of them have been divorced. I’m fairly sure at least one of them has engaged in extramarital sex. But that’s OK for them, you see, because it’s man-woman sex, not that icky gay kind. One of them actually said the reason gays shouldn’t be able to get married is because they can’t have children together and marriage is for procreation. And this was the IT guy who made that claim. 

    It does make me feel slightly better that one of these people never votes and I’m pretty sure the other is not particularly conscientious about it. 

  • Lunch Meat

    Like the entire chapters 19 of Genesis, and 19 Judges? Can you read through those scenarios and see those incidents both included democracy( the majority rule) and sick rapist homosexuals?

    So how about the sick rapist heterosexual in Genesis 34 and 2 Samuel 13? Does that prove that all heterosexual sex is wrong?

    when Jesus spoke on sex:… But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female.(not male and male) For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more  twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

    So you’re saying that when Jesus was asked about a man and his wife, his answer referred to a man and his wife?? That’s amazing!

    Context is, generally speaking, your friend. Except when you’re a bigot, then it’s your enemy because it proves you wrong.

  • Theophile: You are attempting to make your interpretation of a religious document apply to everyone. I don’t care who said what in it or what reasons you have for it. You are wrong for doing this.

    Now, to get to your actual argument itself — it continues to surprise me that homophobes think that the way reproduction works is some kind of argument against homosexuality. That same argument can be used against every single kind of sexual act that does not produce children. Of course, some people use it that way, but even those totally creepy extremists don’t want to outlaw marriage between people who cannot or do not want to have children, so long as those people’s genitalia is in the correct configuration.

    So yep, Theophile, to produce a human, one needs egg and sperm (though in theory and with proper equipment, two eggs would also work.) The fetus must gestate in a womb or womb-like thing (I can’t wait for uterine replicators). What this has to do with marriage in the modern world, I really don’t know.

    sick rapist homosexuals
    First, you know for a fact that most homosexuals do not rape anyone. You are smearing people with what you know is a lie. Pretty gross. And lesbians rape even less often, but hm, the Bible has nothing to say about women having sex with each other. Then there are all the other sexualities.  

    And what about all the straight men who rape? Or does it not count as rape if the victim is a woman or child? Or when the man is raping a man who does not live up to some code of “manliness”?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    And what about all the straight men who rape?

    I’m pretty sure they have to purchase and marry their victim, if said victim was an unmarried woman.

    Traditional Marriage Values, folks. 

  • Jurgan

    Not only do many have a strong love for the idea of the Bible or the Constitution regardless of what it says, many also have a strong hatred for certain people or ideas regardless of fact.  Rachel Maddow showed a segment last night (I think it was a replay from about a year ago) where people were protesting against Eric Holder because he was “the most anti-gun AG in history.”  When Rachel asked what he had done that was anti-gun, they were unable to give even the simplest example.  One of them said to “look at his voting record,” and was gently informed that Mr. Holder has never held elected office.  It sounds funny in the abstract, but watching these deeply confused and clearly terrified people seemed incredibly sad to me.  They’re too scared to hate, but too stubborn to appeal to.  What do you do with people like that?

  •  

    They’re too scared to hate, but too stubborn to appeal to.  What do you do with people like that?

    Treat them with as much compassion as possible while preventing them from harming themselves or others.

  • Ima Pseudonym

     In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was DOOM…

  • LoneWolf343

    I would still contend that the argument from silence is a sign that Jesus really didn’t think it was important, at least as important as modern Xians seem to think it is.

    Also, Dad love to use “Before i had formed you in the womb, I knew you,” as an an anti-abortion text. Of course, if someone with a little imagination will tell you, it is more an explanation of how God perceives time, but that would be too intellectual, and intellectual interpretations are liberal.

  • LoneWolf343

     Who washes God’s mouth out with soap?

  • ako

    Also, Dad love to use “Before i had formed you in the womb, I knew you,” as an an anti-abortion text.

    I love the sheer illogic of that interpretation.  The word “before” is right there, which means that either everyone has to follow Arizona rules and declare that pregnancy begins before conception, or it means something more complicated that isn’t equivalent to God going “Life begins at…”

  • Tricksterson

    Actually I’d be willing to bet that he’s never knowingly met any actual gays and lesbians.  Oh, he probably does know some but he doesn’t know they’re gay and I’m also willing to bet that if he found out he’d be shocked at who a at least a couple of them are because they don’t fit the stereotype he’s formed in his head.

  • PJ Evans

     That’s the magazine they started when they opened membership to people in their 50s. The couple of issues I actually got were not particularly interesting. It’s like ‘People’ with age limits.

  • PJ Evans

     Mr Cooper didn’t write the post. You need to read more carefully.
    And you need to read your Bible more carefully too. I recommend something like the NRSV Study Edition or the Common English version.

  • PJ Evans

    “Bit hard for him to write about the circumstances of his own death before it happened!”

    Perhaps he was dictating?

    Did they have the equivalent of a Ouija board?

  • Theophile

     Ezekiel 16:49-50
    Iniquity of Sodom:
    #Pride, (proud to be an American? parade anyone?)
    #Fullness of bread, (obesity problems? fast food?)
    #Abundance of Idleness , (Got entertainment?)
    #Failure to STRENGTHEN the hand of the poor, (Big bank bailouts? government dependance?)
    # They were haughty, (Were #1! were #1! God made us this way, lets have a parade!)
    #They committed abominations…(comment needed?)
     These are PREREQUISITE conditions for wickedness, notice the parallels?
     Read it learn it….I memorized that long ago, how about this one:
    Jeremiah 6:19.. or Isaiah 3:12…read it learn it.

  • ConservativeWhitebread

    whoa.  You’ve gone full asshole on this one.

  • Beleester

    How is this relevant to your previous argument about homosexuality?  And really, can’t you do better than this cliche?  America is sinful and will be struck down?  That line’s been around since 1776.  Get some new material.

  • Mary

    Hey okie,

    There are many things that “God” says in the Bible that Jesus didn’t say. Commands to murder, rape, enslave others, and even commit human sacrifice. So are you telling me that Jesus said those things, too?

  • Mary

    Theo,

    There is a HUGE difference between “sick rapist homosexuals” and kind, decent gays in a commited relationship.  There are heterosexual rapists, too.  And nobody is talking about legalizing  rape. Quite frankly, your attitude has more to do with YOUR SICK IMAGINATION than with reality.

  • arcseconds

    You’re stepping perilously close to some kind of heresy here, Chris!  This is starting to sound like Arianism, what with the implication that Jesus hasn’t always existed. 

  • Wow, Theo, it’s a good thing you yourself don’t have any of those sins. Especially pride. Yep.

  • Chaotechnician

    Also, if God and Jesus are both infinite (which I think many theologians have asserted), it’s possible that despite Jesus being a subset of God, God might not be larger than Jesus. The Bible is sadly silent on the cardinalities of Jesus and God.

    Of course, this assumes that God forms a set. Arguably, God might be a proper class.

  • GeneMachine

    Marvel does have a lot of space Jesuses? Jesusi? Plural of Jesus.

    Loki100: Jesus is declined in the 4th declension in Latin (albeit irregularly) . Therefor the plural would be Jesus (distinguished from the singular by a long “u” – I have no idea how to input a makron here).

    /nerdmode

  • JayemGriffin

    Ye gods, this one brought the troglodytes out from their caves.

  • reynard61

    “And dead people can’t write anything!”

    Try telling that to L. Ron Hubbard. I swear that his followers must have tossed a typewriter and several trees worth of paper into his coffin just before he was buried because he was a more prolific writer (notice that I don’t use the word “author”) *after* he died than when he was alive.

  • arcseconds

    Well, at the very least God’s knowledge has to be a proper class.

    Otherwise They can’t be omniscient.

  • arcseconds

    ah, i’ve just remembered, the Bible may be silent on the cardinalities of God, but if we’re prepared to accept Cantor as a divinely inspired prophet (as surely we must be) then an answer is provided by our tradition.

    The magnitude of God is the absolutely infinite, Ω, the multiplicity of the system of all ordinal numbers.

    Of course, ‘Bible-only’ protestants will have a problem here as they stubbornly refuse to accept mathematicians as divinely inspired.  Papists aren’t much better as while they accept the teaching of tradition and post-biblical divine inspiration, they accept far too many churchmen and far too few mathematicians as inspired.

  • I got kind of annoyed when they stopped putting birth and death years for authors on copyright info pages, since it meant trying to pin down if LRH was even alive at the time I first heard about him proved deucedly difficult.

  • Ross Thompson

     

    I’m not saying you disagree, but I would clarify one point. There are
    obviously many good reasons not to do many of the things commonly considered sins — killing, malicious lying, etc. — it’s just that those reasons usually have little to do with them being sins per se, and everything to do with them harming others.

    Well, yes.

    To be more precise, I don’t think anyone (with an asterisk) actually draws their morality from the Bible; instead they base it on societal norms, or on what they believe actually hurts people, and then look for ways they can claim it comes from the Bible.

    But if Okie actually constructs his morality in the way he claims, he should agree with my statement, right? Any activity proscribed by the Bible is exactly as bad as any other, regardless of the amount of social acceptance, or the harm it deals.

  • Given that a set is infinite if a proper subset of it can form a one to one correspondence with it, which makes no intuitive sense but is none the less plain to see when you look at example infinite sets , my personal definition of infinity is “the point at which things stop making sense.”

    But yes, Jesus being a proper subset of God does not mean God is larger than Jesus even though it does mean God is not limited to Jesus.

    For any who don’t follow, allow me to give an explanation that probably won’t be any easier to follow.

    If we were to consider God to be the set of all integers, the Father to be the set of all integers divisible by 3, the Son to be all integers one greater than divisible by three, and the Ghost to to be the set of all integer one less than divisible by three

    God = the set of all k such that k is an integer.
    The Father = the set of all “3k*1” such that k is an integer
    The Son = the set of all “3k+1” such that k is an integer
    The Spirit = the set of all “3k-1” such that k is an integer

    (it looks better when I can say it in symbols instead of words)

    So The father is 0, 3, 6, 9, and so on.
    The son is 1, 4, 7, 10 and so on.
    The Spirit is -1, 2, 5, 8, and so on.

    It’s completely clear that God contains a lot more than just Jesus, It’s got these two other subsets that don’t overlap with Jesus at all and each of them is as big as Jesus.

    It’s plain to see that the Father, the Son, and the Spirit are the same size because you can plainly see the one to one correspondence for every element.  If you were to take every element of the Father, preform a simple transformation (add one to the the value of the element) you would be left with every element of the Son.  There would be no duplicate elements of the Son produced, nor would there be left over elements of the Father that had no Son element to change into. There certainly wouldn’t be any elements of the son missing.

    That’s only possible if they started with the same number of of elements.  Similar correspondences are possible between Son and Spirit and Father and Spirit.  Thus they’re all the same size.  And, as noted, the don’t overlap.  So what about the size of God, which includes these three non-overlapping things?  Shouldn’t God be bigger than them?  No.

    Try the same thing.  Take every element of the son, every 3k+1,  and preform a simple transformation.  Subtract 1 (now you’ve got every element of the Father, but I preferred not to start there)  divide by three.  Now what do you have?

    The son is 1,3,7,10, and so on forever, (and also in the opposite direction, I might add, -2, -5, -8, and so on forever), so after this transformation we get 0,1,2,3 and so on forever in on direction, and -1,-2,-3 and so on forever in the other direction.  We get God, all of God, including Father, Son and Spirit.  But this change didn’t require us to add any elements, just alter the individual elements, so that means that God is the same size as Jesus in this example.

    And, yeah, I’m sticking with the idea that God is a set.

  • No, Jesus was not completely silent on the subject. The problem is this; while people preach the word of Christ they have no real idea what he was teaching. Jesus spoke of life and death, the life and death of the bodily soul. Jesus in fact taught the Torah, completely. One of the most misguided beliefs in Christ is what many believe Jesus said about spanking your children. Jesus NEVER said “spare the rod spoil the child”, NEVER. In fact he supported the death penalty for disobedient older children (Matthew 15). Jesus taught us that to enter into eternal life one must FOLLOW THE COMMANDMENTS (Matthew 19:17). So yes, Jesus did teach on homosexuality because the Torah condemns it. But we should not hate anyone and it is a shame that the church spews hatred toward Gays, a real shame.  http://www.yahwehyeshua.com  

  • The_L1985

     Not to mention that such an interpretation also implies that EVERYONE was called to “be a prophet to my people Israel.”  Whoops!

  • The_L1985

     Tut-tut, suggesting divination.  How dare you.

  • The_L1985

     I like Mr. Hubbard’s sci-fi books, I just find the ones about Xenu to be far less entertaining than Slaves of Sleep or Battlefield Earth.

  • The_L1985

     I prefer the idea that God is a relation.  As it says in the old hymn:  “Infinite thy vast domain, everlasting is thy range.” :)

  • The_L1985

    Er, “spare the rod and spoil the child” is in fact in the book of Proverbs (can’t remember exact chapter and verse), and actually means “TO spare the rod is TO spoil the child.”

    …Are you one of those “Messianic Jew” types?

  • SayBlade

    The reason these “Believers” can (under Biblical authority) touch a pig comes directly from Acts 10 where the apostle Peter prepares to meet a gentile. God tells him in a dream, vision or whatever that all the creepy crawlies and everything else Peter used to avoid eating were now ok to eat.  If this were a temporary allowance, then it might not have been seen as important to report this among many things with which the early church folk were trying to come to terms.  Looking at it as a permanent command from God, there is certainly a lot more than food baggage in this story that needs to come out of the closet when doing “outreach” to non-Christians in hopes of “saving” them from the eternal fires of that other place.

  • Actually it’s not.  It’s not in the Bible.  You’re probably thinking of Proverbs 13:24:  “Whoever spares the rod hates their children…” or something similar based on translation choice.

    Does say not to spare the rod (unless you hate your kids) but the modern phrase comes from difference sources.

  • SayBlade

    Hmm.  And what about all those books not included in the current canon of scripture?  There is a passage about not adding or subtracting from the Bible and yet half the writings in the original collection were tossed around the 300s. Then a bunch more were tossed out by Protestants in the 1600s and 1800s but remain in Catholic Bibles.