In response to Jim West’s “narrowly concerned” spittle

A Haredi man spits at a passerby.

In response to Jim West’s continued, passive-aggressive attempts to defend his oppression of the civil rights and privileges of same-sex couples by taking every chance possible to turn any news story into a shot against those who support marriage equality, here’s my response to his latest rhetorical spit-curse in the direction of those whose blogs he feels ‘to narrowly’ focus on the defense of the rights of same-sex couples. (And it is a spit-curse: an unprovoked shot at those with whom he disagrees on a certain issue while routinely passing by a completely unrelated topic. Some Haredim do it to tourists in Jerusalem; Jim does it to other bloggers online.)

Jim wrote:

Today’s term:  ’Narrowly concerned‘.

Narrowly concerned: n. a person who is terribly concerned for ‘marriage equality’ but totally silent about the deaths of 1000 Bangladeshis.

My response:

I’m guessing it’s because no one rallies to the defense of the Bangladeshi sweat shop owners, advocating to suppress the rights of the sweat shop workers. No one calls the near slave-like conditions the “natural order” of business in a capitalistic society, and no one argues that calling for workers’ rights is “angry advocacy” by quoting passages instructing slaves to obey their masters, parables teaching workers to work for their agreed upon wages (Matt 20), and instructions for women to remain silent.

EVERYONE realizes that this is a tragic situation and EVERYONE is calling for reform and punitive action to be taken against those who oppress these women, UNLIKE those who oppose marriage equality, who grasp for reasons to continue to deny gay couples the civil rights and privileges their oppressors enjoy.

The reason you don’t see a fight over this is that people are smart enough in THIS scenario to realize that one group is suffering under oppression/lack of civil justice, unlike same-sex marriage, where there are still people (believe it or not) who think that it’s OK to oppress another group because either their religion or their tradition (usually as the result of religion) tells them to do so.

CAN YOU IMAGINE someone rallying to the defense of the Bangladeshi sweatshop owner? CAN YOU IMAGINE a scholar arguing that these women “had it coming” because “they knew what they were getting into”, while quoting Matthew 20:13 over and over and over again, claiming it’s the “revealed” word of God. Because THAT’S what those who oppose same-sex marriage look like to the now majority of Americans who support marriage equality for same-sex couples.

That’s probably why. It’s easy to condemn the universally condemnable. It’s much more difficult to stand up for the oppressed minority and condemn the establishment. If I’m going to be “narrowly focused” on a blog (as if I have the free time to “report” redundantly on and condemn everything in the news as some do), may it ever be in defense of those who must fight against a bigoted populace AND the religious authorities who empower and perpetuate their oppression.

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Perhaps God IS trying to tell you something…

NBA player Jason Collins comes out as gay the same day Tim Tebow gets cut from the Jets. Perhaps God IS trying to tell you something…

Jason Collins and Tim Tebow

Jason Collins comes out as gay, and Tim Tebow is out as QB in NY.

UPDATE: BTW, in case you’re asking, the purpose of this post is to examine the idea that God is attempting to “tell us things” when good or bad things happen.

Why is it that some people say that God is “telling people” something when things happen with which people agree? For instance, what is God “telling people” with natural disasters?

Why is it that when hurricanes hit places, or when punishments happen to people you don’t like or don’t agree with, God is suddenly “telling us something”, BUT, when things happen that shatter what we think about how God is supposed to work, then that can’t possibly be God telling us something??

Clever Pastor Makes Gutsy Argument Against Gay Marriage*

I’ve argued this issue for a long time, but this gutsy pastor actually lived it – in front of his City Council!

The Rev. Dr. Phil Snider of Brentwood Christian Church stood before the Springfield, Missouri City Council on August 13, 2012 and made one of the bravest 2:30 arguments against* gay marriage I’ve ever heard.

Watch the video, and then remember: when contemplating your position on social issues, you must read the Bible in the same way you must watch this video: ALL of it, all the way through TO THE END.

If you’re going to make claims about “biblical values” on social issues, you had better be prepared to use that same hermeneutic (manner of reading and interpreting the Bible) consistently on all of the Bible’s social commands. AND, you had better read ALL of the Bible, lest you make an argument on ONE social issue, and then paint yourself into a corner and force yourself to defend some abhorrent position on ANOTHER quite ‘biblical’ social issue, like slavery or the suppression of women, or genocide, or the taking of foreign women from conquered people as your wives.

I say the preacher is gutsy because he actually stood up and did it for the public record. He took the SAME religious arguments from old social issues and applied them to same sex marriage. THAT just happened!

Watch the video all the way through to the end, and you’ll see acted out what I’ve been arguing here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here for years now.

(HT: Matthew Paul Turner)

Cherry Picking: The Fallacy of an Inconsistent Hermeneutic

Man tattoos Lev. 18:22 to his arm.

Man tattoos Lev. 18:22 to his arm.

A 2009 story ran in the Advocate (later picked up by other outlets) of a man named Marcel Gelmi who SO homophobic, and SO ready to use a passage from the Bible to defend his hatred of homosexuality, that he (I kid you not) TATTOOED LEVITICUS 18:22 ON HIS ARM in a highly visible area to remind all who look his direction that:

You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination. Leviticus 18:22

Furthermore, Gelmi is a friend of a suspect in a brutal hate crime in Queens, N.Y. He insists that the assault was, in fact, not a hate crime, but that the openly gay victim deserved what he calls a “beat down” explaining:

“I mean, I don’t want no man blowing me a kiss either. I mean, things happen,” he said. “I’ve been beat up like that too, but you don’t see me on the news and my family crying and this and that. Wounds heal.”

So, he tattooed the NRSV text of Lev. 18:22 on his arm, thereby justifying his stance on homosexuality.

However, this act of TATTOOING a particular verse to one’s arm (or on one’s mind and constantly repeating it like a mantra in debates) demonstrates perfectly one of the problems I have with the opponents of same-sex marriage (beyond the fundamentalist/literal reading of Iron Age social religious regulations and insisting that they become the modern law of a secular government supposedly separate from the rules of any specific religion like the Christian equivalent of Islamic Sharia law).

The problem is with “cherry picking,” or more specifically, the inconsistent use of a biblical hermeneutic (way of reading the Bible) to promote one particular verse in the Bible over, and at times, to the complete neglect, of another verse. (Of course, you can do this if you concede that the Bible contains numerous errors, is not infallible, and was written by a number of different people over a great period of time and was later edited and redacted by a host of anonymous others, and therefore some verses are more applicable and relevant than others. BUT since there is a very high correlation between people arguing against same-sex marriage and a belief in biblical inerrancy, that the Bible is the inspired and infallible “Word of God,” and that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,” (2 Tim. 3:16) and therefore every command is apodictic and applicable for all time, I’m guessing many will succumb to the temptation of cherry picking.)

One argument I make consistently to those who would seek to use the Bible to suppress the civil rights of modern Americans is, “Choose a hermeneutic and stick to it. However you choose to read the Bible and interpret this verse, use that same interpretative hermeneutic to interpret all of its verses.” Put simply, you can’t read one verse in the Bible and say, “This is binding for all time,” and then read the very next verse in the same chapter of the same book and declare, “Well, that was just part of that particular cultural context. We don’t need to obey that command today.”

Choose a hermeneutic and stick to it.

(Again, we’re not talking about mixing genres here, where one verse is obviously poetry and the other verse is a list of apodictic legal commands. I’m speaking of two verses in the same literary genre and context.)

For instance, if you’re going to argue that “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” (Col. 3:18) is still binding, as it is a command from the inspired apostle pseudo-Paul, then you probably should be prepared to defend the command that appears only a few verses later that says, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly, fearing the Lord.” (Col 3:22) That is, it’s very difficult to argue that one verse is still binding and the other is not, and still maintain any semblance of credibility.

If you use one hermeneutic (e.g., “This is absolutely binding apodictic law for all time because that is the way God made it”) to interpret one verse, and use a completely different hermeneutic to interpret the very next verse (e.g., “Well, this is obviously terrible and was simply a part of the ancient context and therefore we don’t need to follow the teachings of this verse”), then you betray the glaring inconsistency of the way in which you read the Bible. You pick and choose (cherry pick) the verses you feel should still be binding upon modern civil society, while dismissing the verses you don’t agree with as dated and oppressive.

The point is that the Bible didn’t stop saying “Slaves, obey your masters” during the Civil War. It’s always been there. We simply learned to “read around” that verse. Most have learned and agreed to read the verse calling slaves to obey their masters as a product of an oppressive cultural context that endorsed slavery. But, here’s the good news: we changed! While the Bible still says “Slaves, obey your masters,” we took it upon ourselves to agree that slavery is evil (despite the fact that God himself gives instructions on how to make a slave in Exod. 21:2 and Exod 21:7) and to fundamentally ignore the verses that dictate how we should make slaves and that slaves should continue to obey their masters. We moved away from a literalist “God said it, that settles it” mentality and moved toward a progressive reading of the text that concedes that portions of the Bible may have captured some less than ideal elements of the ancient world, such as slavery or the victimless act of two consensual adults loving one another.

Because if you’re going to claim that there should be a law against same-sex marriage because God explicitly prohibited it a couple of thousand years ago, then it’s probably not a good idea to TATTOO a prohibition onto your arm that is only a few verses before this one:

You shall not make any gashes in your flesh for the dead or tattoo any marks upon you: I am the LORD. (Lev. 19:28)

I know of no New Testament command countermanding or otherwise “trumping” this law against tattoos. And yet, this particular tattooed “cherry picker” violates one outright command so that he can advertise his endorsement of another.

This individual is SO consumed with hate for homosexuals, that he violates the latter command against tattoos to express his disgust of the violation of the former.

Sheer and utter hypocrisy.

But that’s what we’ve come to expect from many who want to use the Bible to legislate against the single issue of same-sex marriage, while they completely ignore commands against other equally “abominable” practices, and do not seek to legislate against them.

And THAT is cherry picking and the fallacy of an inconsistent hermeneutic.

the irony of african-american support for banning same-sex marriage

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012.

Dr. Patrick Wooden Sr., pastor of the Upper Room Church of God In Christ, and his wife Pamela Wooden celebrate early returns that show strong support for Amendment One during an election night party at the North Raleigh Hilton on Tuesday, May 8, 2012. (Photo: Travis Long for NewsObserver.com)

OK, I’ll say it:

The sheer irony of many African-Americans, especially Christians, celebrating what they believe to be the biblically ordained suppression and discrimination of another group’s civil rights betrays the short memory of those who were once themselves oppressed for being nothing more than who they are.

This irony is not new; it has been discussed in the past regarding California’s Prop 8 here and here. Is the same true in North Carolina?

I am not an African-American, so one could argue that I’m not permitted to discuss this topic. But I must say that as one who is neither gay nor black, but who has written extensively about this topic for years now, to me this political demographic anomaly ranks among the grand ironies of our era.

I do believe one can make a case that the African-American community has once again been ignored as a voting block. It is not enough to argue simply that black churches are socially more conservative than their white counterparts. The fact is that much of the time and money spent on educating the public – especially Christians – about the problems of attempting to ban same-sex marriage upon biblical or ‘traditional’ grounds in a secular state has been spent on persuading the much larger white voting block, while comparatively little time and money has been spent on educating and entering into dialogue with the African-American community. Thus, the African-American community has once again been overlooked in favor of focusing attention, time, and money upon white groups for political advocacy efforts.

Whatever the underlying reason, the irony still remains: many African-Americans like Pastor Patrick Wooden (pictured) are actually celebrating the suppression of civil liberties (note: not religious liberties, but civil, secular, state liberties) of an otherwise oppressed group, who only want the same civil rights as those in the majority.

To me, the use of religion to suppress the civil liberties of a minority group of any race, religion, gender, color, or sexual orientation is shameful. For one underrepresented group to suppress another only increases the burden.

Repost and respond away!

Well Done: Iowa’s Zach Wahls Featured on the Daily Show about Being a Child Raised by Gay Parents

Iowa's Zach Wahls appears on THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART.

Iowa’s Zach Wahls appears on THE DAILY SHOW WITH JON STEWART.

Very proud to be an Iowan and of Zach Wahls, who was interviewed as a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Wahls discussed his new book, My Two Moms, and how the 12 rules of the Boy Scouts were exemplified by his parents in raising him.

The video of the Daily Show interview is here.

His original speech to the Iowa House Judiciary Committee in opposition to a proposed amendment to ban gay marriage is below.

‘gay caveman’ update

Caveman(With thanks to Jack Sasson’s Agade mailing list.)

It turns out that the ‘gay caveman’ reported earlier this month may not be ‘gay’ or a ‘caveman’.

A new report states that some scholars have questioned the findings:

Kristina Killgrove, an anthropologist and archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, wrote on her blog, Bone Girl, that the burial site isn’t necessarily proof of any sexual orientation.

“Just because all the burials you’ve found to date are coded male and female based on grave goods doesn’t mean there aren’t alternate forms you haven’t found and doesn’t mean that the alternate form you have found has a lot of significance,” she wrote.

“If this burial represents a transgendered individual (as well it could), that doesn’t necessarily mean the person had a ‘different sexual orientation’ and certainly doesn’t mean that he would have considered himself (or that his culture would have considered him) ‘homosexual’.”

I seem to remember raising similar questions:

However, Katerina Semradova, another member of the team, conceded that the reverse has also been found: the same team previously unearthed a female from the Mesolithic period who was buried in the fashion of a man. So do these burials represent position in a society (i.e., wealth, status, etc.) or sexual orientation? Could it be a mixup? (It’s unlikely, but possible.) Beyond that, could it have been an intersexual individual (possessing both sexual organs, with a skeleton that researchers would interpret as male, but who was gendered as a female while alive?) And why can’t a straight male work in the domestic realm in antiquity like many straight males do today? Are the scholars playing into ‘ancient’ scholarly stereotypes by assuming that men only worked in non-domestic arenas? And if the researchers are assuming a male/female stereotype, why not conclude that the male was somehow being punished by those who buried him, for instance, for exhibiting what they might consider to be “cowardice,” say, for refusing to fight in a battle? (Or, do the researchers assume that the use of ‘male’ and ‘female’ labels and discrimination/persecution of homosexual individuals is merely a modern phenomenon)? To conclude the individual was gay may be superimposing a lot of modern stereotypes upon an ancient culture.

So, maybe the initial sensational report isn’t all it was cracked up to be?

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