Blogs > Cliopatria > For These Things Are Unclean

Sep 5, 2006 11:05 pm

For These Things Are Unclean

"If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination."

So we read in Leviticus 20:13, in the very King James English that God used to give His points extra special emphasis. That settles it. Not much ambiguity, is there? I hope you gay-marriage supporters out there will now just, you know, be quiet, and otherwise behave yourselves.

Okay, now let's talk about shellfish and other unspeakable foodstuffs from the sea. Consistency is important, and we've let this one slide too long.

Fortunately the good folks behind the website God Hates Shrimp are starting us down the right path.

Bring all of God's law unto the heathens and the sodomites. We call upon all Christians to join the crusade against Long John Silver's and Red Lobster. Yea, even Popeye's shall be cleansed. The name of Bubba shall be anathema. We must stop the unbelievers from destroying the sanctity of our restaurants.

You can't argue with conviction like that! Why, you'd be a fool even to try.

I am particularly impressed with the page of website banners suitable for downloading. It is also good to see that anti-shrimp protesters are showing up at demonstrations by traditional-values folk.

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Scott McLemee - 9/8/2006

Perhaps having tongue in cheek, I mumbled. My point is not at all that religious tradition equals fundamentalist rigidity.

It is, rather that fundamentalist rigidity (of certain kinds anyway) tends to be one-sided, even on its own terms. And the best way to challenge that might be to point out the inconsistency.

"The best way" in only some cases, however. There must be Christian Reconstructionists out there who really do think that God does not want you to eat shrimp, ever. I do not doubt that, actually.

Ralph E. Luker - 9/7/2006

Glad to be compared with Albert Einstein and Arthur C. Clarke. Unlike yourself, they often knew what they were talking about.

chris l pettit - 9/7/2006

that should be neighbor, not neigher...

although we should treat horses well as well...


chris l pettit - 9/7/2006

Need I remind you, Dr. Luker, that my background before human rights law, was in comparative religions? or that I lecture on natural law and rights theory, human rights and Islamic law, collective rights and Buddhism, and other courses involving the intersection of law and religion? Just curious whether you needed the refresher...

That being seem to also need to be reminded that the Pauline tradition upon which the majority of the Christian tradition is based, was actually a radical (dare I say relatively extremist?) interpretation of the teachings of Jesus, James the brother of Jesus, and the Jerusalem Church...which wanted not necessarily a break with Judaism, but rather a liberalization of sorts of its teachings to accommodate things like a focus on loving thy neigher as thyself...something unfathomed by much of Leviticus, people who actually take the Bible seriously instead of absorbing its general messages of hope and peace and resigning the rest of it to a mythological experiment bin, Christians who can somehow support the Iraq War or violation of human rights (this free market captialism/corporate welfare nonsense fits the bill as well)...Paul simply had the money and resources as a wealthy merchant to be able to travel and spread his message by dominating the media of the time (much like the "news" spreading the "gospel" of nationalism, secularism, and individualism today)

The fact is that we need to engage or refute all teachings that are anti-homosexual. You are at least correct in seeing Paul in a semi-historical context regarding one of the myriad of reasons why he was writing in the manner in which he was. Of course you then make the mistake of doing the exact opposite and taking the Catholic and Protestant doctrines on faith and not questioning why and under what ignorance or influence those might have been written. That of what you write is not a problem of "historically conditioned" teachings becoming is a problem of doctrine in and of itself. It is the framework that is problematic...not one specific aspect of it that you either like or dislike due to your ideological bent. There are those points of convergence that can be taken from each and every faith and tradition...but those points are very general and based mostly in general concerns of peace, human rights, and living in the community of mankind. Everything else is subject to ideology, power politics, historical and sociological influence, ignorance, misinterpretation, economics, etc. Thus my comment above about why it is absurd for religion to claim to have definite answers or doctrines, for people to (basically) blindly follow those words (most often not even understanding the historical or sociological contexts), and for people not to realize that we will never have the answers and that invisible men an their "doctrines" can never provide a definitive answer.

To end with a quote from one of my favorite colleagues and someone else who I would gladly side with before coming to your side of the ideological spectrum, Arthur C. Clarke..."The greatest travesty to befall the human race is the hijacking of morality by religion."

You can continue to analyze within a truly broken ideological framework...I would rather actually accomplish something and analyze what is wrong with the framework itself and what we can salvage by looking at the good (points of convergence) that can be gleaned from each and every brken framework.


Ralph E. Luker - 9/7/2006

Although I do appreciate Professor Pettit's comparison of me with Albert Einstein, lest I go "all ballistic and indignant," per his predication, I've avoided commenting on this post. I'm not in Kabala's "shame on McLemee" camp, I do think that this is an example of what happens when reasonably intelligent people early in life abandon interest in what religious traditions actually teach. Very commonly there's subsequent commentary that builds on an adolescent's recollection of things, rather than a well-informed reflection. That's one reason why I never read anything by Pettit on religion with any hope of his being well-informed.
As Kabala and Kuznicki have pointed out, Acts of the Apostles and the Pauline Letters make clear that their authors believe that in fulfilling the Law, Jesus had freed his followers -- both Jew and Gentile -- from obedience to it. As for the teaching on sexuality and marriage, Paul wrote with an immediate expectation of the end of the world. Under those circumstances, he thought it better that the followers of Jesus remain celebate. Translating historically conditioned teachings into doctrine has produced very divergent results. In Catholicism, it produced "the doctrine of two lives" -- in which there is a higher calling to "the religious," who are to be celebate, and ordinary believers, who are urged to marry, live monogamously, and pro-create. In Orthodox Christianity, however, ordinary priests may marry and procreate, but bishops must be celebate. The doctrine of two lives was one of the first things that Martin Luther challenged and Protestant Christianity follows him to urge Christians to marry, be monogamous, and procreate. If they remain single, Protestants are urged to be celebate. As the King James translation (which some of my relatives mistakenly referred to as the St. James translation) is a distinctly Protestant text, it renders St. Paul's time-bound teachings in a frame-work that assumes monogamous heterosexual marriage is normative. So Kabala is essentially correct that McLemee's post would engage Jewish teachings against homosexuality, but not Christian ones, whether Catholic (where natural law has near equal status with biblical teaching), Orthodox or Protestant.

Paul Noonan - 9/6/2006

Gee, you can't really be surprised that the New Testament takes a negative view of homosexual sex, when it can only come up with two cheers (or perhaps only one cheer) for heterosexual sex within marriage. Check the seventh chapter of 1 Corinthins, which contains this wonderful gem at verses 36- 38 :

" If anyone thinks he is acting improperly toward the virgin he is engaged to, and if she is getting along in years and he feels he ought to marry, he should do as he wants. He is not sinning. They should get married. But the man who has settled the matter in this own mind, who is under no compulsion but has control over his own will, and who has made up his mind not to marry the virgin - this man also does the right thing. So then, he who marries the virgin does right, but he who does not marry her does even better." (NIV translation)

That last line would be great on a shirt worn to a "family values" conference!

Note: The above is the modern consensus of the gist of the cited passage. There is an older translation (possibly based on different manuscripts?) that indicates it is being addressed to fathers of daughters, indicating that they do the right thing if they don't allow their daughters to marry - to anyone, ever. Either version is less than ethusiastic -to put it mildly - about marriage.

James Stanley Kabala - 9/6/2006

Of course, as Mr. Kuznicki notes above, Christians have long believed that Old Testament laws were intended solely for pre-Christian Jews are no longer binding on Christians. See Acts of the Apostles and the letters of St. Paul for a history of the disputes that eventually led to this decision. Condemnations of homosexuality and gay marriage by today's Christians are based on 1) the fact that homosexuality is repeatedly condemned in the New Testament as well (generally by the same St. Paul who argued so strongly that Christians did not have to obey the Torah); 2. the belief that homosexuality is "unnatural" and against God's plan for the proper use of human sexuality, unlike dietary restrictions whose sole purpose was to set the Jews apart from their neighbors; and 3. the belief that even on secular grounds, the two-parent family has shown itself to be the best and most healthy method to raise children.
Mr. McLemee's argument is based on the idea that for two thousand years, Christians have been too stupid to interpret their own holy book. Does he really think that if devout Christians truly believed they were bound to obey the Torah, they would defiantly refuse to obey it nonetheless? After all, Orthodox Jews, who actually do believe they are obliged to follow Torah law, have obeyed it successfully throughout this same period. Or does Mr. McLamee believe that Christians - even undoubted geniuses like Augustine, Aquinas, and Calvin -don't know how to read? Shame on him.

David H. Noon - 9/6/2006

Why characterize this as a "gay/Christian" debate? All the gay Christians I know wouldn't understand the back-slash...

Jason T. Kuznicki - 9/6/2006

Leviticus is something of a red herring in the interminable gay/Christian debates. I think that the New Testament is quite clear that it contemplates only a small number of sexual states: Chastity, monogamous heterosexual marriage, and promiscuity. The first two are acceptable; the third is not. All other sexual behaviors, insofar as they are mentioned, are forbidden. And I must say I think the conservatives are right: Same-sex intercourse most certainly is one of the forbidden states. At least to Christians.

The case is made quite strongly here, and it would stand quite well even if we were to disregard Leviticus:

David H. Noon - 9/6/2006

I have a "GHS" t-shirt my wife bought me a few years back. The Font side reads, "When Jesus died for your sins, He wore a crown of thorns -- lot a lobster bib." The back of the shirt lists the appropriate verses from Lev. and Deut.

I recently wore this shirt to a family event in the Midwest, where it was not terribly well understood (or received). My wife was furious, as I had promised her I would never wear the shirt in public.... But a person of faith must testify. And so I did.

chris l pettit - 9/5/2006

isn't human stupidity grand?

Why is it that we need invisible (wo)men to give meaning to our really insignificant (in the grand scheme of things) lives? Why can't we accept that we are tiny little pieces of a huge system that has no meaning, no purpose, no higher banana pulling you really have to feel important? Why isn't feeling interdependent and interconnected with your fellow beings and environments enough? It even gives you impetus for meaning, rights, and actually treating your neighbor and the environment like yourself.

Oh well...arrogance and belief is truly a sad thing...although to rebut Dr. Luker before he goes all ballistic and long as religion is used for the promotion of peace and human rights, I realistically have no problem with it on a practical basis. To utilize the words of Einstein (who I would gladly be affiliated with before Dr. offense Ralph, you simply arent that fantastic, none of us are), we should be in awe and happy that there is so much unknown and that we cannot know everything...and should not have to make up excuses, beliefs, and invisible men to try and provide meaning and something to vainly cling to in support of our arrogance.

Now what ever happened to the Great Spaghetti Monster website?


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