When Someone Says, “America Should Get Back to ‘Biblical Principles'”

When Someone Says, “America Should Get Back to ‘Biblical Principles'”, this is all too often what they mean:

HT: Joel Watts

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The Biblical Dilemma of Denouncing Slavery, Yet Opposing Homosexuality (again)

In light of recent claims that one most “possess the Holy Spirit” in order to interpret the Bible “properly”, I’d like to ask someone who believes he/she DOES possess the Holy Spirit and who is therefore eligible to translate this passage “properly” to interpret the following passage for me? (I only have a PhD in this subject, and have addressed this issue before, but those are the “thoughts of men” and multiple of my graduate degrees are from a “secular, public” university, so that doesn’t count to many who claim to possess the Holy Spirit.)

Would someone possessing the Holy Spirit please read the following verses and answer the following questions for me:

Lev. 25:44 As for the male and female slaves whom you may have, it is from the nations around you that YOU MAY ACQUIRE MALE AND FEMALE SLAVES.

Lev. 25:45 You may also acquire them from among the aliens residing with you, and from their families that are with you, who have been born in your land; AND THEY MAY BE YOUR PROPERTY.

Lev. 25:46 You may KEEP THEM AS A POSSESSION for your children after you, for them TO INHERIT AS PROPERTY. THESE YOU MAY TREAT AS SLAVES

Q1. Is this the “inspired, word of God”?
Q2. Is God the objective ethical foundation for all morality in the world?
Q3. Does God of the Bible – at ANY point – ever rescind this command regarding slavery?
Q4. Does the NT command slaves to continue to obey their masters?
Q5. Do you believe that foreign persons can be acquired as slaves, bought and sold, and passed on to subsequent generations as inherited property?
Q6. Have you written your local congressman, or donated money to, or supported a constitutional amendment banning the “redefinition” of slavery?
Q7. Have you stated publicly that regardless what our “godless, secular government” does, you’re going to still listen to a “higher authority” and condemn homosexuals and endorse slavery?

Morality: Slavery vs. Homosexuality: Guess which one the Bible's OK with?Leviticus 25:44-46 is just as much the “words of God” as any other biblical command regarding social institutions in the Bible. The Bible never rescinds this command(!!), and the NT only reinforces the institution of slavery by commanding slaves to obey their masters (Col. 3:22; 1 Pet. 2:18; Eph. 6:5 – thus, you can’t dismiss it and say, “Well the Old Testament was nailed to the cross”.) It doesn’t matter how one “defines” slavery; it has been defined quite accurately in the verses above above: owning people as property, and passing them along as inherited property to children. And we FOUGHT A WAR against people who attempted to argue that the above biblical endorsement of slavery should still be valid in this country in this modern time.

(Seriously, I must ask: why do so many of those who oppose same-sex marriage hail from the former Confederacy? Is there some demographic connection? Has any research been done on this?)

If you’re not going to embrace and defend slavery, then WHY ON EARTH, would you continue to condemn homosexuals?
WHY ON EARTH, then, would ANYONE continue to deny gays the same privileges and rights enjoyed by heterosexual individuals?

The God of the Bible CLEARLY says it’s OK to own and pass on slaves as property. HOW DO YOU ARGUE AROUND THAT FACT? Seriously: Have you given ANY THOUGHT WHATSOEVER about how you theologically argue around God’s endorsement of slavery in the Bible? And if so, WHY can’t you do THE SAME THING with homosexuality??

If you’re going to appeal to the “inspired, revealed Word of God”, from which you cannot pick and choose the verses you want to follow and dismiss because, “culture isn’t the final arbiter of truth, revelation is,” then why aren’t you using THE SAME LOGIC (and same hermeneutic) toward gay people as you do toward slavery?

THIS IS WHAT I MEAN when I say, “YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE“. That’s you. When you condemn homosexuals and when you argue that they shouldn’t have the same rights and privileges as we have, THAT’S YOU defending slavery. THAT’S YOU making the SAME argument. That’s you appealing to the Bible to condemn a victimless so-called “crime” against God.

The irony, of course, is that in SLAVERY, there IS a DEFINITE VICTIM – THE SLAVE! – and it is therefore a crime. BUT, in a HOMOSEXUAL relationship between two consenting adults, there IS NO VICTIM!!!!! Point to the victim. There is no victim! And if there is no victim, there is no crime!

Slavery is ENDORSED and AUTHORIZED by God, DESPITE the obvious hardships imposed on the victims/slaves. And yet, there is no victim in homosexuality, and yet THAT is the verse you choose to defend, and not slavery????

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE! Those who oppose slavery yet condemn homosexuals are UNABASHED HYPOCRITES, because they read the Bible one way to dismiss slavery, and the opposite way to condemn homosexuality.

YOU ARE AN ILLOGICAL, UNASHAMED HYPOCRITE if you condemn homosexuals and do NOT endorse slavery. You are unworthy of being called “righteous”, or “scholar”, or even “humane”.

It’s that simple: YOU ARE “THOSE PEOPLE”. You should walk around with a sandwich sign around your neck saying, “I’m a Christian hypocrite, because I think some explicit social commands of God can be ignored, but others must be maintained”, especially those commands that condemn victimless activities like picking up sticks on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36) and homosexuality.

Let me say this to those who oppose same-sex marriage – ESPECIALLY IN THE NAME OF GOD: You are deserving of all public shame, chastisement, loss of reputation, and abandonment of friends and colleagues (both secular and Christian) that accompanied those who freely chose to defend the divinely ordained institution of slavery. You deserve the loathing you receive, for you have chosen to suppress the rights and privileges of your fellow human because you think God told you to do so, but you don’t condemn evenhandedly. You deserve to be intellectually exposed and called out publicly, because you condemn in the name of a god who ENDORSED, LEGISLATED, and MAINTAINED SLAVERY!

YOU ARE “THOSE PEOPLE”.

On Ad Hominem Cries of “AGNOSTIC” and “ATHEIST” in Response to Scholarly Critique

Deflect. Deflect. Mock, then deflect again. Never address the issue, just deflect, attack the critic, and mock. This passes for “theology” and logic in some circles.

In response to recent posts I’ve made about the Bible’s understanding of certain social institutions like marriage and slavery, a colleague of mine responded immediately, yet indirectly with a logically fallacious and highly ad hominem criticism of agnosticism and atheism.

This is twice in one week for this individual

I presented a theological problem concerning why the same God of the Bible would slaughter thousands of Egyptian children to free his people from slavery, and then instruct those same people on how to make slaves of their own.

And in response, rather than address the theological issue at hand – that glaring contradiction and theological conundrum posited by the text – my colleague shifted the response to an ad hominem attack against agnostics, arguing (indirectly) that I’m “cudgeling” them with a god I don’t believe exists. The post then rambles on, employing scattered, tangential analogies and other red herrings in the hope of diverting attention for the fact he has no answer to the dilemma posited by my post, or perhaps to disguise the cognitive dissonance necessary to maintain conflicting beliefs.

Of course, the problem with my colleague’s line of reasoning is that HE believes God exists, and, HE believes the biblical texts to be an accurate “revelation” of the nature of God. Thus, the burden is to explain why HE continues to believe what HE believes in spite of the glaring ethical problem created by such conflicting positions (i.e., God kills to free slaves, and then instructs those freed how to make slaves of their own).

The fact that I don’t believe that the text accurately reflects God – or that God even exists – is completely moot: I’m not the one making the claim that the revelatory text of the Bible accurately reflects God. I don’t believe it does. For me, the problem is solved: the text is a reflection of Iron Age thinking about social interactions (e.g., marriage, slavery, etc.) that has been attributed to God in an attempt to justify it. I recognize that the conflicting claims don’t make sense, are contradictory, and I dismiss them as the beliefs of an ancient people who felt that the answer to ethnic diversity and religious plurality (so prized and protected today by our U.S. Constitution) was to kill those who don’t believe what they believe because God said so (Deut. 20:16-18).

But my colleague is trapped between claiming that the Bible is the “revealed” authority for social issues of slavery and marriage, and the often appalling actions of the God described in that same Bible (cf. the genocide of the Amalekites ordered in 1 Sam. 15:2-3, or the slaughter of Egyptian children mentioned above), and simply cannot resolve the glaring ethical contradictions contained within it.

And that is the point of the exercise: to point out that there are horrendous INTERNAL ethical contradictions (note: no appeal to science here, just laying one biblical text along side another) that a believer in the revelatory nature of the social aspects of the texts cannot reconcile.

He can’t do it! So in response, he claims that the one pointing out this obvious discrepancy is somehow the fool. He claims that the one highlighting the contradiction is waving around an “invisible cudgel”, when in fact, I am merely waving around the believer’s own cudgel. In this regard, it’s a mirror. If they believe it exists and is real, then they must deal with the damage caused by it. But, if they realize it’s just an ancient set of social contracts attributed to a deity (as I and countless others do), then they don’t.

The believer is simply being hit with the cudgel of his/her own creation. It’s not my cudgel, it’s theirs. These are their claims, not mine. The burden of proof is on them to offer some semblance of a rational defense for their claims, not me, because I don’t accept them! They are the ones saying that the text is “revelation” and therefore binding on modern civil law in the case of same-sex marriage, but somehow not in the case of slavery and divorce. My question exposes this, and their only response is to attack the one asking the questions for not believing in the veracity of the contradictory claims.

philosopharaptor_1_plus_1The logical fallacy in my friend’s response is like asking, “How can you tell me that 1+1 doesn’t equal three, when YOU don’t even believe that 1+1=3? You idiot! You’re waving around a false cudgel.”

My response is that his response is circular reasoning combined with a mixed analogy (the “double-double” of logical fallacies), one which is quite easy to expose.

It’s like saying, “You can’t tell me that the claims made by the Flying Spaghetti Monster are contradictory, because you don’t even believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster. You’re waving around a false cudgel!”

With all apologies, it’s laughable. Simply change the name of the god and the same colleague would (or at least should) reject it as silly. I don’t accept the claim precisely because it’s an easily exposed logical fallacy. It’s an absurd claim couched in circular reasoning.

Yet ultimately, this is the rhetorical tactic all too often employed by those who cannot reconcile their claims in the “revelatory” nature of biblical texts discussing social relationships (slavery, marriage, etc.) with our modern ethic: they tackle the person instead of tackling the problem–the very definition of an “ad hominem” attack)–and they deflect from their lack of a solution by laughing, mocking, declaring, “You fool!” and invoking other anti-intellectual slogans at those simply asking them to reconcile their own contradictory claims.

And even though the entire point of the exercise is to demonstrate that the God they believe to be making the claims is either self-contradictory, outright evil, or nonexistent, they claim that because the agnostic doesn’t believe in this flawed theological construct, they have no right to criticize it. It is the epitome of anti-intellectual fundamentalism.

At the end of the day, my colleague’s only response is that I don’t believe the fallacious argument, so I am ineligible to point out its flaws. I present a logical dilemma, and his only response is, “ATHEIST!” (or in my case, “AGNOSTIC!”).

This may pass for “theology” and “logic” is some fundamentalist circles, but it sure as She’ol ain’t scholarly.

I shake my head.

Marriage Equality for All Americans

Even the Bible(s and dictionaries) support marriage equality for all Americans.

Hebrew Bibles and dictionaries form an equal sign in support of marriage equality for all Americans.

Hebrew Bibles and dictionaries form an equal sign in support of marriage equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD in support of marriage equality for all Americans

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

I AM ON RECORD for Marriage Equality for all Americans.

Come on folks. It’s time to stand up and be heard on this issue. Marriage equality for same-sex couples is now before the Supreme Court.

Stand up and be counted.

PLEASE DO NOT stand idly by and hold the coats of those who would openly discriminate against the civil (not religious, civil) rights of other Americans!

 

I am ON RECORD as a professor of RELIGIOUS STUDIES at the UNIVERSITY OF IOWA in support of marriage equality for all Americans!


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this week’s example of bigoted child abuse in the church: child sings ‘ain’t no homo gonna make it to heaven’ in church

Some people ask me why I spend so much time debating the issue of the legalization of same-sex marriage. Apart from the academic side of the intellectual argument, and the textual/theological argument, we often forget that the outcome of this debate and the charges and claims made during the debate itself hurt real people and adversely affects their lives. And I’m not just speaking about those gay individuals who are discriminated against on a daily basis, but I’m also referring to the children who are taught to mock and even hate by their parents from a very young age in church!

For example, watch this latest video taken from the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle in Greensburg, Indiana, the same town where a gay high school student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg IN, Billy (William) Lucas, recently took his own life apparently due to the anti-gay bullying he was receiving from his peers.

Listen to the lyrics of the song sung by the child, and watch the reaction of the adults in the audience.

The child sings the following lyrics:

I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong.
Romans one and twenty-seven (Rom 1:27)
Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.

Watch the room full of white adults stand and cheer and laugh in approval. The pastor nods and laughs. They are celebrating bigotry. They are celebrating their belief that gay Americans are going to burn in hell. One person is even heard to yell proudly, “That’s my boy!” And toward the end of the video, they have the child sing it again. Note that in the first performance, there is another child standing with the boy, and they boy ends after one verse, but in the second performance (see the 1:07 mark in the video), there is no second child, and the little boy sings the verse multiple times. This was no accident or lapse in judgment, it was an encore performance!!!

And what’s worse, from this point on, this child knows that every time he calls a gay individual a “homo,” he’ll have the cheering support of his church behind him. Remember, he’s a child: someone taught him this song! Every time he condemns a gay individual to hell, his parents will applaud. They might even invite him up in front of the church to sing of the gay individual’s condemnation to the church, who will shower him with applause and laughter.

This is child abuse. It is hateful indoctrination at its worst.

The pastor in the video is Jeff Sangl of the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle at 1114 Westridge Parkway W in Greensburg, IN 47240. You can email Pastor Sangl at jsangl@tds.net or call him at the church office at (812) 662-8224. You can also contact him at his family business (I kid you not), the Flatrock Whitetail Deer Farm, where they raise whitetail deer to hunt them at (765) 525-9488.

Apparently, shortly after this video was posted online, and the public outrage began, the pastor abruptly left on vacation. The church immediately posted a statement on its website, stating among other things:

The Pastor and members of Apostolic Truth Tabernacle do not condone, teach, or practice hate of any person for any reason. We believe and hope that every person can find true Bible salvation and the mercy and grace of God in their lives.

We are a strong advocate of the family unit according to the teachings and precepts found in the Holy Bible. We believe the Holy Bible is the Divinely-inspired Word of God and we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.

So once again, while the church simply denies that they teach hate, the video shows otherwise. AND, we see that the church is quick to excuse and dismiss its abhorrent behavior by invoking religious freedom stating that “we will continue to uphold and preach that which is found in scripture.” Once again, even in their non-apology, “religious freedom” is used to excuse hatred taught to children.

THIS is why I take this issue so seriously. What “thoughtful conservatives” see as the simple upholding of “traditional marriage” is all too often manifest as teaching children to mock and hate their neighbor…in church. It has to end, and I for one as a scholar of religious studies, will stand with the oppressed on this one.

imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now: YOU ARE ‘THOSE PEOPLE’

Imagine that picture of you protesting same-sex marriage 40 years from now, with your Bibles and your flags and your signs:

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed Marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

Imagine how stupid you are going to look in 40 years: Mixed-race marriage vs. Same-sex marriage.

In 2008, I wrote:

“I ask Californians, especially Christians, to look within their hearts and ask themselves whether we want to treat homosexuals today as we treated women in the 1920’s, and blacks in the 1850’s. Will we look back in 40 years’ time in disgust and shake our heads and ask how we ever voted to deny civil rights to groups based upon a personal sexual choice?”

An artist sums up what I wrote in one picture.

If you are campaigning AGAINST same-sex marriage, that’s you. In the picture. That’s you. You ARE that person. You are the person in the picture that we look back on in disgust, shaking our heads, and asking, “How on earth were people EVER that mean? Why did they EVER believe that? How could those people discriminate against others that way? And use the BIBLE to do so?”

YOU ARE “those people.” And in an age of social media, where EVERYTHING is written down, captured, and remembered, it will be that much easier for us to show our children and grandchildren the faces and the names of those people who argued AGAINST the civil rights of others. And our children will look back in disgust at the images of people protesting same-sex marriage the SAME way we look back and shake our heads at the bigots protesting mixed-race marriage 40 years ago, or desegregation before that, or women’s right to vote before that, or slavery before that, and using the Bible to do so!

YOU ARE THOSE PEOPLE!

(HT: Rabbi Gershon Steinberg-Caudill via FB)

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