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.)
HOMOSEXUALITY IS A SIN
"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