Saturday, December 11, 2004

Fun with scripture.

If you want to have a howling good time laying a smackdown on closed-minded, literal, Biblical fundamentalists (yes, yes, I'm being redundant), you should check out this online Bible search site. Oh, Lord (pun fully intended), the endless hours of bliss, as you stumble across wonderfully topical passages like this from Deuteronomy 24:5:

"If a man has recently married, he must not be sent to war or have any other duty laid on him. For one year he is to be free to stay at home and bring happiness to the wife he has married."

Well ... isn't that special? And isn't that just the sort of thing you'd like to bring to the attention of the Bible-banging, God-fearing right-wing loons and fundamentalists in charge of the current invasion of Iraq? And wouldn't it be amusing to watch them have to renounce these kinds of unambiguous Scriptural commands, in front of their devout flock and their lunatic religious leaders? Man, I'd pay to see that.

Coming soon -- what the Bible really thinks about marriage. And divorce.

Random related thought: You know, if you want to entertain yourself writing a letter to your local paper pointing out the war and recent marriage thing, hey, you have my permission. Perhaps something along the lines of, if the U.S. is really a "Christian nation" founded on "Christian laws", does this passage have the full force of law? Oh, the fun you'll have.

NOTE: Due to a change I made in the blog template, I managed to lose the previous comments. (Actually, I suspect they're not lost, they're still in HaloScan, but I'm managing the comments using a different mechanism.) Sorry about that.


Jay McHue said...

That just goes to show what you Bible-bashing, God-hating left-wing loons and bigots lack in understanding of scripture. If you're going to point out one, why not point out all? There are 612 other Levitical laws that we "Bible-banging, God-fearing right-wing loons and fundamentalists" don't necessarily follow in the 21st Century. Why? Because we are under a new covenant in Christ. As he himself said, he didn't eliminate the old Law, but fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17), and through him we are justified (Acts 13:39).

So really, my ignorant, hateful friend, the issue isn't renouncing this one Levitical law or all Levitical laws, but using one's spirit and brain in understanding everything in the Bible instead of nitpicking it to bash someone or other. So you go right ahead and throw that verse in the faces of anyone you wish. Anyone with even a whit of understanding about Jesus' purpose on earth will easily be able to put you in your place.

Jay McHue said...

Good points, Dan. And since Deuteronomy is also a book of the Torah, why isn't our friend here mocking Jews regarding this verse, too?

CC said...

Well, it does appear that I've developed a small but loyal following of right-wing attack poodles. And aren't they aborable, the way they quote Scripture out of context and misrepresent the things others write? Gosh darn it, they're so cute, you just want to reach over and pinch their cheeks, don't you?

(The way McHue and Meyers bolster and encourage each other reminds me of nothing more than Bill and Ted from their cinematic excellent adventure. "Well, Bill, we certainly did lay a righteous, Scriptural smackdown on that heathen, did we not?" "Oh, most definitely righteous, my friend." "Duuuude", they sing in unison, as they high five each other. But I digress. Onward.)

Typically, I prefer not to respond to blog comments. I've always felt that being a blogger is sort of like being a journalist or columnist. You take all the time to figure out what you want to say and how you want to say it and, when you're done, the readers get their turn. But sometimes, you just can't let silliness go unchallenged. So ... where to even begin?

First, McHue and Meyers collectively accuse me of being a Bible-bashing, God-hating, anti-Christian bigot. If they can find any evidence of that in my posting, I'd like to see it. As anyone with moderately remedial reading skills should be able to figure out, I very carefully and specifically reserved my scorn for (and I quote here directly) "closed-minded, literal, Biblical fundamentalists." You know, the Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells and their ilk. And I'm sure both of them knew that, but chose to distort it to make their point.

This is what you might call "intellectual dishonesty" -- the deliberate misrepresentation of someone's viewpoint to score rhetorical points. It's as logical as suggesting that, because Meyers is criticizing me for what I wrote, he doesn't like bloggers. I trust most readers can appreciate the distinction. (Given their intellectual dishonesty, I'm tempted to remind both McHue and Meyers about that "bearing false witness" thing, but I have to believe they've read about it somewhere before.)

McHue also makes a puzzling criticism about my poking fun at some of the silliness found in the Old Testament: "If you're going to point out one, why not point out all?" Apparently, in McHue's alternate logical universe, if you're going to criticise one passage in the Pentateuch, you have some bizarre intellectual obligation to criticise them all or it doesn't count. Where he gets this idea from is beyond me.

But he (unintentionally, I'm sure) undermines his entire case when he admits, "There are 612 other Levitical laws that we 'Bible-banging, God-fearing right-wing loons and fundamentalists' don't necessarily follow in the 21st Century. Why? Because we are under a new covenant in Christ."

In other words, McHue admits that one need not take the laws in Leviticus or Deuteronomy literally any more. So ... how does one decide which ones are still in force and which ones aren't? Apparently, that's a personal matter: "... the issue isn't renouncing this one Levitical law or all Levitical laws, but using one's spirit and brain in understanding everything in the Bible ...". In short, just pick and choose the ones you like. As the Church Lady might say, "How conveeeeeeenient." So you can ignore the passage that forbids you from wearing mixed fabrics, but still honour the one that describes homosexuality as an "abomination." And McHue has the temerity to accuse ME of "nitpicking". Talk about irony.

I could go on, but really, there comes a point where it's just not a judicious use of time. Meyers, in an appalling lack of good judgement, manages to dig himself in even deeper in his comment to one of my more recent posts as well: (to which, of course, I will respond shortly). But, seriously, if you want to understand where Mr. Meyers is coming from, one need only click on his name link to get to his profile, and learn that he hates Michael Moore, admires right-wing, raving screech harpy Ann Coulter, and considers the execrable Drudge Report a "spin-free zone".

Honestly, do I really have to say more?

P.S. And if McHue and Meyers don't like my Biblical criticism thus far, I'm pretty sure they're really going to hate my upcoming multi-part series on the intellectual and academic excrement that is creation science and intelligent design. But I'll take my chances.

Anonymous said...

The commenters' sophistry is very familiar. Fundamentalists commonly cite the Levitical ban on sodomy as "evidence" that God hates homosexuals. (The Bible says so!) They figure that most people don't know that the "new covenant in Christ" releases Christians from the Levitical prohibitions, and they've gained their debating point. But if their interlocutor happens to point out all the OTHER Levitical prohibitions (mixed fabrics, eating shrimp, sex with menstruating women, etc., etc.) which even fundamentalists blow off, why then, they reach for their "new covenant in Christ," which gets them off the hook.

Then next week they're thundering on again about sodomy's being a Levitical ABOMINATION! They are nothing but sophists.

Nancy Irving

Jay McHue said...

Interesting, Nancy. You misrepresent what fundamentalists believe about God and homosexuals and you have the gall accuse US of being sophists. You look to creeps like Fred Phelps and his ilk and automatically denounce all fundamentalists based upon his example. In truth, most fundamentalists are not like Phelps (and actually are sickened by him), don't hate homosexuals, and don't believe or teach that God hates homosexuals. God does hate homosexuality, however, just as He hates all other sin.

And no, Nancy, the covenant of grace does not "get us off the hook" or give us license to pick and choose what Levitical laws we want to follow. Even under the new covenant, sin is still sin, homosexuality is still condemned, and the one man/one woman relationship is the only one that is condoned.

Finally, if one is not saved by grace through faith in Jesus, then one will be judged by the law of the old covenant.

CC said...

From CC:

Oh, dear. Just when you think Mr. Meyers can't make any more of a fool of himself, well, he manages to surprise you. This will be my last contribution to this thread since I really do have better things to do. Life is just too short to trade witticisms with the theologically impaired.

And while I have no interest in eviscerating Meyer's entire diatribe, I will point out a couple amusing points. (On a personal note, I've been dealing with Mr. Meyers' ilk for nigh on 20 years and, after you've refuted the same argument for about the 200th time, it really does start to get old.)

First, I poked fun at Meyers for being a bit of a fan of right-wing howler monkey and vicious bigot Ann Coulter. In his defense, Meyers writes, "I do admire Ann Coulter in a humorous way. I think she is pretty close-minded [sic], to be honest, but reading her work is good for a chuckle."

Yeah, I know what you mean. When she wrote of terrorists, "We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity," well, that was a real knee-slapper, wasn't it? I couldn't stop laughing. Still brings a smile to my face every time I think of it, so I think we all know where you're coming from now, don't we, Mr. Meyers?

But what's more enlightening is Meyer's admission, after I poked fun at the absurdity of the Old Testament, that, "Of course we don’t listen to that part of the Bible anymore, it’s the Old Testament. Christians don’t follow the Old Testament, as any mere Sunday school grad could tell you."

At which point, of course, Meyers' alleged Scriptural support for the condemnation of homosexuality falls apart *completely*. After all, as we've already established, there is not a single example -- not one -- of Jesus explicitly condemning homosexuality by name in the New Testament. Anywhere.

(I'm sure Meyers will fall back on the feeble excuse that, well, Paul was pretty clear on that. Sorry, I'm not interested in what one of Jesus' alleged representatives had to say on the subject. I want to hear it right from The Big Guy himself. I've dealt with enough of His self-proclaimed representatives on this mortal plane to know I wouldn't trust most of them to be able to pour piss out of their boots if the instructions were printed on the heel.)

If Mr. Meyers thinks I'm wrong on this point, I have a simple challenge for him. Show me a single, clear, explicit and unambiguous passage (based on a reliable translation) from anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus personally condemns homosexuality. That should be easy enough, shouldn't it, given a man of Mr. Meyer's self-proclaimed theological expertise?

Let the dodging, weaving and tap dancing begin.

CC said...

My ole grandpappy once told me, "Don't feed the trolls, you'll only encourage them." In spite of that, I really am going to reply to Mr. Meyers, for a couple of reasons. First, I don't want anyone to get the idea that he actually has a case or is making any sense.

And, second, yes, in a funny way, I really do take a perverse pleasure in lowering the boom on hopelessly ignorant Christian fundamentalist apologists. I like to think it's just part of my charm. Anyway, where to begin?

So, let's see, I challenged Meyers to find a clear and unambiguous passage from Jesus Himself in the New Testament that condemned gays. And what did I say? I said, "I'm sure Meyers will fall back on the feeble excuse that, well, Paul was pretty clear on that. Sorry, I'm not interested in what one of Jesus' alleged representatives had to say on the subject."

So what did I say? I said, Paul doesn't count. And how did Meyers respond? In part, "Yes there is. Paul quoted Jesus as saying this." If anyone has a clearer and more forceful way of saying, "No, you can't use Paul," I'd love to hear it. (This is one of the unavoidable frustrations of dealing with poorly-read religious apologists -- their inability to deal with the English language.) But it doesn't stop there.

I also insisted (because we had ALREADY established that the Old Testament isn't worth the parchment it's printed on) that the passage had to be from the New Testament. And what did I say? I said, "Show me a single, clear, explicit and unambiguous passage (based on a reliable translation) from anywhere in the New Testament where Jesus personally condemns homosexuality."

And how did Meyers reply? "Christ spoke against homosexuality when He made reference to the abomination of Sodom and Gomorrah". Now that's an interesting strategy. Meyers didn't refer *directly* to the tale of Sodom in the OT -- rather, he used a passage from the NT which *referred* back to the OT, kind of sneaking support from the OT in through the back door. (I will, naturally, refrain from pointing out the irony of using the "back door" approach in a discussion of homosexuality. That would be crude.)

But does the story of Sodom really support Meyers' case? Not even remotely. And to show this, we will do something Meyers seems reluctant to do -- we will actually read the Bible.

A careful reading of Genesis 19 reminds one of the basic story -- two angels show up in Sodom, Lot insists they spend the night at his house, a crowd shows up demanding the visitors so they can have sex with them, Lot offers them his virgin daughters instead (more Republican family values here, I'm guessing), the crowd refuses, and the angels, having had quite enough by now apparently, strike the crowd blind, giving Lot and company the chance to escape, at which point the Lord destroys both Sodom and Gomorrah (how exactly did Gomorrah become part of the story?). And that's the story. Or so it seems. But there's a whole lot that doesn't fit.

For instance, from Genesis 19:12-13, we have the angels, ""Do you have anyone else here-sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the LORD against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it."

Um, excuse me? "... he has sent us to destroy it." In other words, the destruction of Sodom has nothing to do with this incident. The angels had ALREADY been tasked with the destruction of Sodom, so the entire story of Lot is utterly irrelevant to all of this. Oooh, that has to be kinda embarrassing to the apologists who hang their entire proof on the tale of Lot and the angels. Ouch. But we're not done.

Again, Meyers writes, "Christ spoke against homosexuality when He made reference to the abomination of Sodom and Gomorrah". And did he really? Without even checking Scripture, you already get the feeling that Meyers is going to play some word games since he uses the rather vague and ambiguous word "reference". And, sure enough, he does exactly that.

A quick online keyword search pulls up numerous references to Jesus talking about Sodom. And what EXACTLY does he have to say? Curiously, not a whole lot about homosexuality. If you do a keyword search on the word "Sodom" strictly within the New Testament, you appear to get only nine hits.

The closest you get to some rationale is, first, 2 Peter 2:6-8, "if he condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lives of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard)". Hmmm ... not a lot of fuming, sputtering condemnation of homosexuality there, is there? The word "ungodly" covers a lot of ground, so this doesn't really help Meyers justify his homophobic bigotry. Anything else?

Perhaps Meyers' last, best hope is Jude 1:7, "In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire." Sure sounds promising but, again, "sexual immorality and perversion" leaves you a lot of leeway, doesn't it? For a lot of Christians, sex in anything but the missionary position is ungodly, immoral and perverse. And, once again, not a single direct, unambiguous reference to gays.

In short, Meyers' arrogant confidence in his position is based completely on fiction and wishful thinking, and not at all on actual facts. We could, of course, keep this up forever -- Meyers presenting bogus, intellectually dishonest arguments, and me wasting useful time exposing them. But life really is too short for this to go on any longer.

Tell you want -- let's call it a draw. I'll admit that Meyers' arguments are perfectly sound, convincing and persuasive for badly-read, gullible, semi-illiterate, closed-minded, homophobic fundamentalist apologists, and he can admit that my arguments are similarly logical and persuasive for actual thinking individuals who prefer to take a more intellectual approach to Biblical scholarship, and who take the time to actually read what's written there. That way, we can both go away happy and concentrate on talking to the respective demographics of our choice.

And wouldn't that make everyone happy all around?

Anonymous said...

CC Said:
"Meyers' arrogant confidence in his position is based completely on fiction and wishful thinking, and not at all on actual facts."

Some would argue that using the content of the bible in any of it's many versions is not basing an argument on actual fact at all. Some would propose that the bible is just a book like so many others and may contain no more factual content than say the Lord of the Rings. Some would hold that arguing about things in the bible is like arguing the physics of Star Trek.

Unknown said...

Paul never met or spoke with Jesus. He saw Jesus in a vision after Jesus was dead. So, we only have Paul's word about Jesus' views on gayness. If I told you that I saw Jesus in a vision and he said he really meant for the sacrament to be a tasty corned beef on rye with a fine pilsner beer, would you believe me? I sure hope you would because then I'd never miss a communion!

CC said...

From CC:

Man, this really is the thread that never ends. And isn't it fascinating that, when one examines Christianity as critically as some Christian fundamentalists pick on evolution, one is immediately accused of being an anti-Christian bigot?

Mr. "Gatsby", headless lucy has a perfectly valid point. All of Paul's religious "wisdom" came by way of a vision. So why should it be given any credence?

For years, I've been fascinated by the constantly wavering standards of Christian fundamentalists. They'll use the Old Testament as proof that homosexuality is an abomination yet, when you point out the numerous absurdities in that same OT, they'll immediately respond with, "Well, of course no one believes that stuff any more. Don't be silly, you're just being an anti-Christian bigot."

And let's not forget how these same Christian fundamentalists will summarily dismiss the absolutely overwhelming evidence for biological evolution (from diverse fields of study such as biology, geology, paleontology, microbiology, paleomagnetism, cosmology, etc.), and yet, they are ABSOLUTELY convinced of the credibility of an ancient story of someone who had a vision. Go figure.

Oh, yes, I'll be getting around to dealing with creation science and intelligent design one of these days. And, trust me, I have the street creds to do it.