Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Abominations

by Lisa Brewer

Many of my gay friends (who haven't commented on my experiment yet) probably shudder at the word Leviticus whenever they see it mentioned on Facebook. Why is that, do you suppose? Could it be those two damning verses?:

"You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination." Lev 18:22 (NKJV)

"If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination. They shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them." Lev 20:13 (NKJV)

We Christians and Jews share this book of Leviticus in our bibles. Now, someone correct me if I have a mistaken impressions, but I will tell you what I see. I see some Christians holding up these verses to judge and hate. I have not met any Jewish people in my walk who have this strong desire to judge and hate gay people. But maybe it's because I haven't met any conservative Jews who might do this. (Why is that??)

I asked two Jewish friends about this today. Jewish Friend #1 said that there are all different strains of Jews just as with Christians and the conservative Jews do read this very literally and take a strong position. However, he admitted upon my badgering questioning that there are likely a smaller proportion of Jews who are conservative than there are Christians who are conservative.

Jewish Friend #2 quoted Jim Wallis to me!! Tonight, I pulled out my study materials from the Crown Financial course (written by Howard Dayton and not Jim Wallis) and he reports that there are "2,350 verses on money and possessions" in the bible. My friend's point is - Why focus on the handful that have to do with homosexuality without giving equal consideration and weight to these thousands of verses about how we handle money and possessions and those who suffer without?

Good point!

I decided to look a little more closely at this word translated "abomination." Turns out that according to Wikipedia there are a few references to abominations outside of male homosexual acts. Namely:

A shepard was an abomination.
Killing a cow was an abomination.
Cheating the market with dishonest scales was an abomination.
Eating seafood that does not have scales or fins is an abomination.

OK, what is going on here?? (BTW, all the verse references are on that Wikipedia page and I didn't even represent them all here.) Why is it that I see Christians holding signs with references to Leviticus as they protest gay marriage, but no one is doing the same with Deuteronomy outside the stock exchange??

Someone tell me if I am reading this all wrong. I know these verses are here, but we mortals have a responsibility to give weight and consideration to all the verses in scripture. Are we interpreting with the heart of the Lord when we choose some verses as more important than others?

3 comments:

Bryan said...

Pardon me for butting into your Levitical musings, but I just don't see these Christians who are supposedly over-focusing on verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality. Where are these Christians who sit around all day talking about sexual perversion and completely ignore biblical injunctions against greed? Do you know of any Christian church that has a plurality of sermons on sexuality? It seems to me that most preachers would happily avoid the topic entirely. On the other hand, I recall ample sermons on stewardship. And where are these Christians who use these verses to "hate"? I don't doubt the existence of these straw men, but I have personally never met a Christian who said he hated homosexuals. (And no, you can't count Fred Phelps, because his theology is clearly not Christian, as he believes that sinners cannot be forgiven. And besides, the objects of his hate also include Catholics. He even hates Southern Baptists because they don't hate Catholics enough.)
There has certainly been more Christian speaking and writing on the topic of homosexuality in the past two decades than there was previously, but is that really because some group of conservative leaders arbitrarily decided to emphasize this particular category of sin? Is it not rather the normal Christian response to speak to the blind spots of the surrounding culture? Jesus didn't need to mention homosexuality to a Jewish audience, but Paul writing to Gentile Christians did. Neither of them felt the need to mention rape or bestiality, but apparently Moses did. The reason Christians don't carry signs with verses condemning greed is that they don't have to. As far as I am aware, no one doubts that the Bible condemns greed. Plenty of people ignore what the Bible has to say, but I'm not aware of any recent books that contort Scripture to say what Jesus really meant is that greed is good.

Last time I checked, there are no activist organizations decrying archaic Christian views on greed. Nobody says that those who call greed sin are hateful bigots: avariphobes.

There is no special denomination that provides a spiritual home for greedy people.

No one demands that society treat his greed as the moral equivalent of Mother Theresa's charity.

Public schools don't teach that greed is morally neutral, natural and healthy, and that any parents who say otherwise are greedy-bashers.

There are no Greedy-Generous Alliance clubs at public schools.

No colleges have tried to ban Christian groups from their campus because they wouldn't allow openly greedy people in leadership.

In no country in the world is it illegal to preach a sermon against greed. The Canadian Human Rights Commission does not fine citizens who write letters to the editor condemning greed. Nor does it penalize printers who ask a customer to go elsewhere to print up flyers for a greed pride event.

Congress hasn't recently passed any legislation that increases penalties for crimes where the motive involves the victim's actual or perceived greed.

And most insidiously, no one tells greedy people that they are born that way and can never change. No one says that trying to overcome greed is potentially psychologically damaging, that they must simply embrace their greed and live it out with pride. After all, Paul tells us in I Corinthians 6: "Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral ... nor the greedy ... will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God." God can change even the greedy. Amen.

Dave said...

"Pardon me for butting into your Levitical musings, but I just don't see these Christians who are supposedly over-focusing on verses in the Bible that condemn homosexuality."

Look in the mirror.

kristen said...

There is a principled, moral opposition based on Scripture to homosexual activity and there is a sense of "ewwww, icky!!!" They are very different things but in my observation they often (not always, but often) seem to go together. And it's very easy for people with a visceral "ewww, icky!!!" reaction to cloak that in Biblical language. That tendency does no favors for our ability to witness on this issue or any other one.