Sunday, November 23, 2008

Letting Go and Removing Splinters

Note: I've vacillated for over an hour about posting the following. Normally I just write what I'm thinking and put it out there. However, I confess that I had some concerns about this post. I read a comment to one of my earlier posts that I found fundamentally disturbing and I wanted to respond to the comment. However, when I checked out the commenter's blog, I was unsettled by what I found there. After communications from friends that I trust and respect, I've decided that I would not be true to my sense of personal integrity if I didn't publish my thoughts unexpurgated.

I always read my comments. Sometimes, I write about a comment that grabs my attention. A new reader left the following comment on a recent post. (The use of capitalization is Micky's own little stylistic touch.)

Micky said...

"You will not have intercourse with a man as you would with a woman. This is a hateful thing.” (Lev 18: 22)

I find Micky's all caps statement, "homosexuality is a sin," as offensive as I find the use of the word "nigger." Normally I refuse to write the word, using the the euphemistic "n-word." I use it here for its shock value. Mickey's statement offends and shocks my senses. I find it to be a crass and crude attack on people that I care about that I know to be gay, and on the millions of people in this world that so often have to hide elements of their true self even from their family and friends.

I really don't have the energy to explain to Micky that Leviticus is one of several Old Testament books that presented the laws by which the Israelites were to live. Nor do I have the time to clarify that Leviticus is focused on instructing the Israelites who are about to enter the land of Canaan after the exodus from Egypt not to engage in the behaviors of either their former masters, the Egyptians, or of their new neighbors, the Canaanites. Chapter 18 is particularly fixated on prohibiting all types of sexual behavior, specifying against men lying with their mother, their brother's wife, their sister, their aunt, their neighbor's wife and with any woman who is menstruating. (She is deemed to be unclean. )

I didn't take the time to do in depth research of social customs of the land of Canaan or ancient Egypt, but I do know that intermarriage of close relatives in the upper classes was not uncommon. It was a way of continuing blood lines and ensuring their purity. No doubt, the prohibitions were intended to make it clear to the Israelites that such practices were not to be adopted by them.

If I had the energy, I'd explain to Micky that the Bible was written by men. I don't see that it detracts from the Bible being divinely inspired, but the hands that wrote the words on the page were human hands, directed by human brains. The Bible is a fascinating review of the cultural norms, beliefs, and practices of the many peoples who inhabited the middle east for generations. Many of the prohibitions in Leviticus stem from the cultural practices of one people being juxtaposed with those of another people. The laws in Leviticus are about maintaining a separate cultural identity for the new immigrants from their neighbors in the land of Canaan. They are about a displaced people trying to survive, to maintain their heritage. What better way to insure that these laws were followed than to assert that they come directly from God?

No doubt, by now Micky is convinced that I am profaning the word of God. I have respect and faith in God. That is why I don't believe that She really took the time to specify when it is okay to eat the fruit from your orchard. (According to Leviticus 19:23-25, when you plant a fruit tree, you must not eat any fruit it may bear for the first three years. The fruit that it bears in the fourth year must all be given to God. It is only in the fifth year that you may eat of the fruit.) Leviticus is filled with admonitions about gleaning fields and food preparation, perhaps important to maintaining a people's cultural identity through adherence to social customs but not really something of significance to the Creator of the universe.

I also wonder if Micky has noted that if we accept a literal interpretation of the verse from Leviticus that he cites, then lesbians are okay. The prohibition is directed towards men and specifies that a man is not to lie with another man as he would lie with a woman. It doesn't say anything about what women can do. So Ellen can lie with Portia and there's no harm done.

I'm also thinking that I should direct Micky to Leviticus 20:11 that provides that if a man and woman commit adultery that they are both to be put to death. The number of electric chairs required to apply this biblical law would likely cause a power outage over most of the planet.

The Bible contains many lessons and many spiritual truths but it also contains ideologies shaped by the social and cultural norms of the the various time frames in which it was written. (Note: the Bible was not all written at once, in a single sitting by a single author.) If we literally follow every proclamation made in the Christian Bible, we will have everything from requirments for self-mutilation (If thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out) to prohibitions against the physically disabled being allowed to offer food on the altar of God (Leviticus 21: 17-23).

I have my own favorite Bible verse, one with which I'm not certain that Micky is familiar, Matthew 7: 1-5.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”

Micky proclaims on his profile that he is saved. I would hope that he is saved from the ugly hate that he has taken it upon himself to express towards his brothers and sisters. I hope that he is saved from continuing on the path of arrogance that spurs him to be judge over his brothers and sisters. I hope that he takes to heart another of my favorite teachings from the Bible, "Love thy neighbor."

I confess that I find it difficult to always love my neighbor. As I've been reminded by the words of a dear friend, even those with whom I fundamentally disagree are my neighbors and I must let go of any ill will that I harbor against them. I have much work to do to remove the wooden beam from my own eye so that I may look with charity even upon those whose beliefs offend me. I'm working on it every day.

NOTE: Language of the Biblical quotes is that of the New American Bible


Beth said...

When I opened your page, the song playing was "Nasty Boys" by Janet.

Ooooo, the irony! ;)

warrior scout said...

i got linda ronstadt....
takes me back..

micky likes to make the rounds. i suspect micky likes to talk on the bone phone if ya know what i mean. sadly, most fear is based on self-doubt. and of course, most judgement stems from fear of some sort.

and thanks for the nod on my post 2day...

Char said...

hello...again admiring your writing

Indigo said...

I suspect Mickey finds fault with everything and everyone that doesn't fall suit to his beliefs. He's left several comments to me that never made the journal thanks to comment modernation.

According to Mickey, Bill W. the original founder of AA ran a cult, and was a occult practioner. He seems to have a major problem with the AA readings, and group logic.

I think he takes one singular word out of the journals he visits and hones in on it. For me it was a sobriety listing on my sidebar. He picked up the homosexual reference from you and so on.

My words to Mickey would be, have another drink, don't be afraid of what your heart is telling you (in other words, most homophobia stems from a fear of those feelings). And finally if your going to ride the God bandwagon, how about practicing some good old fashioned compassion for your fellow man, woman or child.

In essence Mickey I do believe your nothing short of a mockery of yourself. (Hugs)Indigo

Jan said...

Very well put Sheria Jan xx

lynn said...

I think you would like this post on this subject. Not mine but I linked to it last week.

Marc said...

Gee, I'm sorry you didn't have the energy to do all that explaining!
I gotta admit, I don't feel a remotely parallel level of offense to the use of the n-word and being called a sinner. In the mind of someone using the n-word there is invariably hate; I actually think these bible thumpers mean it when they "hate the sin" and "love the sinner" but of course, that just begs the question: what do I care if they love me or hate me? I only care how public policy affects my rights and whether the police and law protects me from the lunatic fringe. Let the haters hate, and the judgers judge, it's its own punishment, and a terribly uncomfortable (and unChristian) place to be. These people are very unhappy, I get to be GAY! You needn't take offense on our account, such ignorance deserves a lucid statement of the facts to counter it, such as you laid out, but those spouting it are to be pitied. To take offense at them gives their hate reality, I take the Glinda stance: "Be gone. You have no power here."

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the entire do not judge other. There is so much of that, it is sad.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for yur wise words Sharia.

I have come back to this blog repeatedly, not sure why. Eventually today I gave in and looked at Mickey's blog.

My eye was caught by the following line: I spent most of my life in catholic orphanages...

My heart goes out to Mickey. I would like to openly and without condition offer Mickey the Love which he is obviously so sorely lacking.

Yasmin said...

Very well put, I'm always amazed that people not only hold these kinds of veiws, but actually say them out loud, like they're saying something profound, to be really honest all I want to do is beat them about the head with a blunt instrument, but I fear it would do no good...sighs,and when they get it all mixed up with religion, well that's a whole other argument, I say why not stay at home, don't watch TV, or read the papers...etc lead your christian life and leave the rest of us alone, sorry rant over, on a nice note I have spent a few minutes listening to your music great choices.


Claudia's thoughts said...

I will never understand why people are so preoccupied with what other people do and how they live their lives.....How people spend their times and who they love is really only the busienss of those involved.
If every one would mind their own business and keep out of others concerns unless invited the country would be much better.

You can not force your beliefs and what you think is right on others.


The Dreamer said...

Hi Sheria

Thank you for visiting NightmareHakll and leaving your cooment,s I have added both of your blogs to the Blogosphere section of my blog links

Great writing and also like the background music

God Bless

~Rebecca Anne~ said...


I'm glad you remained close to your personal integrity and continued with your post, I for one believe it was warranted and needed in the face of such blanket judgement.

When someone like Mickey proclaims such biblical justice and yanks a quote from the bible and considers it law, I cringe. I have to sit back and wonder if they realize the mayhem and terror that would strike this world if everyone grabbed random quotes from the bible and used them against others. Like you mentioned we would have people plucking thy eye's out. We would have that mass world execution based on many, many things considered righteous reason for death in the bible. Specifically, if those like Mickey continued to get their wisdom from the Old testament.

I see the bible like a political machine that has survived the test of time, just as the Constitution was created in the beginning to govern the people of this new world. But times change, society evolves and with that change must follow. In our world, we have amendments to our constitution. Jesus was supposed to supercede the word of the Old testament, for the sake of basics here, amendment style.

I just wonder how long will it take before those that read the bible just as any other book off their shelf but proclaim undying devotion will realize that a literal translation is both ludicrous.and dangerous.

Well done Sheria,

meili_lo said...

hi there.

i saw you in one of the blogs i visited and thought of inviting you to my site. hope you can spend a portion of your blogging time to check it out and share you thoughts. would really appreciate it if you can.


Northwest said...

Most of my blog friends read you and reference you, and so I finally arrived on your blog today. And I am overwhelmed with gratitude for your insight and depth of biblical knowledge applicable to this topic.

As a gay man who was raised Southern Baptist/ evangelical Lutheran in a small southern town, i connect intimately with your viewpoint. I am astounded at your ability to put together your explanation of why so many modern-day people ignore the fundamental truth of the Bible and choose instead to turn it into a hate-mongering manual.

Charli said...

Hi! Thanks for bringing my attention to that poor sad (disgusting) blog. I went there and left a comment that I SURE will be deleted. But I'm sure I got my point across.

Misery loves company, I suppose. Perhaps why this person needs to spread the wretchedness.

Des's big daddy said...

It's sad that the fundamental belief of so many "Christians" is essentially "What I say goes." Thankfully, it seems that this method of intolerance is being rejected more and more each day.

I admire your ability and willingness to put yourself out there so that others can be made aware of the type of intolerance society faces.

jack-of-all-thumbs said...

As always, the time I invest in visiting your blog is repaid many times over. Well said, friend.