Saturday, May 28, 2011

The New York Times Priesthood

Good thing we have guys like Nicholas Kristof to explain to the church what the Bible really says. Otherwise we would have to read it for ourselves! Mr. Kristof has done all of Christendom a great favor by publishing what at first blush appears to be a straight up copy and paste of a book, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions about Sex and Desire by Jennifer Knust. Get it, unprotected texts! It sounds like….well, never mind. If I have to explain it, it stops being funny. Anyway, his essay in the NY Times (an excellent source for Biblical exegesis) is titled Religion and Sex Quiz. I thought I would pass on a few of his quiz questions and subsequent answers, just for grins and all.

On abortion here is his clever question designed to “get ya!”

1. The Bible’s position on abortion is:
a. Never mentioned.
b. To forbid it along with all forms of artificial birth control.
c. Condemnatory, except to save the life of the mother.

His answer:

1. A. Abortion is never mentioned as such.

Ah ha! Got ya! Or maybe not. It is true, abortion is never mention “as such” by name. Neither is “drive by shooting” or “using gas chambers to kill Jews” or “beating someone to death with a baseball bat”. What is mentioned of course is that God condemns murder. Also noted is that human beings are human beings in the womb. Ergo, killing an unborn child is murder and is condemned. You see, sometimes you need to actually read what is written instead of relying on someone else. Then there is this one:

2. The Bible suggests “marriage” is:

a. The lifelong union of one man and one woman.

b. The union of one man and up to 700 wives.

c. Often undesirable, because it distracts from service to the Lord.

So what is the answer? Wait for it!

2. A, B and C.

The Bible limits women to one husband, but other than that is all over the map. Mark 10 envisions a lifelong marriage of one man and one woman. But King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines (I Kings 11:3). And Matthew (Matthew 19:10-12) and St. Paul (I Corinthians 7) both seem to suggest that the ideal approach is to remain celibate and avoid marriage if possible, while focusing on serving God. Jesus (Matthew 19:12) even seems to suggest that men make themselves eunuchs, leading the early church to ban enthusiasts from self-castration.

Ah, yeah except no. The Bible is clear that marriage is a one man, one woman for life thing. Did Solomon have lots of wives (and other men in the Bible did as well)? Of course. Does the Bible speak approvingly of his polygamy? Not really. This is the same argument you get from mormons to explain away Joseph Smith’s lecherous behavior. Both Paul and Jesus had positive things to say about those who stayed celibate for the sake of the Gospel but those same two had a lot of positive things to say about marriage. Kristof attempts to obscure this with the random account of some men taking things too literally but the big point he is trying to hide is that while singleness is a gift for some people, the expected state of man and woman is one man married to one woman for life.

Of course what would a secular mocking of Christian attitudes about sex be without the obligatory attempt to suggest the Bible doesn’t condemn homosexuality.

3. The Bible says of homosexuality:

a. Leviticus describes male sexual pairing as an abomination.

b. A lesbian should be stoned at her father’s doorstep.

c. There’s plenty of ambiguity and no indication of physical intimacy, but some readers point to Ruth and Naomi’s love as suspiciously close, or to King David declaring to Jonathan: “Your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” (II Samuel 1:23-26)

Is the tension killing you? I know I am on pins and needles here, waiting to find out what nugget of wisdom Mr. Kristof has come up with to explain why the church has been wrong about this for thousands of years…his answer is...

3. A and C.

As for stoning on a father’s doorstep, that is the fate not of lesbians but of non-virgin brides (Deuteronomy 22:13).

Shocking! Who knew that David and Jonathan were closeted homosexuals? Apparently no one until Mr. Kristof! This is a case of trying to find perversity in events that have nothing to do with homosexuality. David was clearly heterosexual, something that got him into a great deal of trouble with Bathsheba. Likewise Naomi was Ruth’s mother in law. Naomi was the widow of a dude, Elimelech. Ruth was the widow of Naomi’s son Mahlon and eventually married another man, Boaz. Not exactly the plot of an episode of “The L Word”. We unfortunately live in a world where ungodliness and immorality is so prevalent that we find it everywhere. If a man expresses his love for another man, they must be homosexual. If a woman deeply loves another woman, they must be lesbians. We have allowed the secular world to so ingrain this in our culture that men are virtually unable to express love for one another without someone suggesting it is homosexual desire.

This is another tired one, the old “the sin in Sodom wasn’t sexual!” (a necessary corollary to the idea that the Bible isn’t really that condemnatory of homosexuality)

7. The people of Sodom were condemned principally for:

a. Homosexuality.
b. Blasphemy.
c. Lack of compassion for the poor and needy.

Well you already know what Kristof is going to say but here it is anyway.

7. C.

“Sodomy” as a term for gay male sex began to be commonly used only in the 11th century and would have surprised early religious commentators. They attributed Sodom’s problems with God to many different causes, including idolatry, threats toward strangers and general lack of compassion for the downtrodden. Ezekiel 16:49 suggests that Sodomites “had pride, excess of food, and prosperous ease, but did not aid the poor and needy.”

Was homosexuality their only sin? Of course not but it was one of their sins and an abomination. It is apparent that crowds of homosexuals seeking men to rape was but one of the many sins but it was their behavior that precipitated the final destruction of Sodom.

A couple of things. These angels were going to Sodom to confirm the extent of their sin (Gen 18: 20-21) and the events of that evening, a crowd of men seeking to sexually assault these men, confirmed the wickedness of Sodom. These men were not even interested in satiating their lust on Lot’s virgin daughters (Gen 19: 6-9), their desire was only for these men. Kristof likewise conveniently fails to reference Jude 1:7: just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire but I assume that is because he didn’t bother to investigate what the text says for himself.

Kristof sets the whole thing up by saying admitting up front that his answers are questionable but that is apparently OK because he thinks the Bible is ambigious on these issues too…

Professor Knust’s point is that the Bible’s teachings about sexuality are murky and inconsistent and prone to being hijacked by ideologues (this quiz involves some cherry-picking of my own). There’s also lots we just don’t understand: What exactly is the offense of “arsenokoitai” or “man beds” that St. Paul proscribes? It is often translated as a reference to homosexuality, but it more plausibly relates to male prostitution or pimping. Ambiguity is everywhere, which is why some of you will surely harrumph at my quiz answers
Try reading Romans 1: 24-32 and telling me that Paul was actually talking about male prostitution.

There can be a case made that Christians have sometimes been overzealous and even unloving in our approach to sexual immorality. That fault, if there is any, lies with us. What is not flawed is Scripture and it is crystal clear when it comes to sins like homosexuality, adultery, marriage and divorce. If anything the Bible is far more strict on these issues than the church usually is. Homosexuality and adultery are condemned but sins like hatred, lust and divorce get short changed. I would say the church is far too soft on sin, not that we are too mean about it.

Can God save a homosexual or someone who is promiscuous or a murderer from their sins and create a new heart in them? Of course He can and does, otherwise I wouldn’t be a Christian and neither would anyone else.

Of course ultimately this is all a part of the attempt by the media to undermine authority structures, primarily the family and for Christian the Scriptures. This is not to “free” people to think for themselves but rather so that they can supplant these authority sources as the arbiters of what is true and what is not, what is commendable and what is to be condemned. Our media has slowly morphed into a self-appointed priesthood, a secular priesthood to be sure but a priesthood nevertheless. Just try crossing our newly appointed priestly caste and see what happens to you.

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