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”.

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)

The Day After: Thoughts on the Response to the Overturn of Prop 8

It has begun. The response from those who supported California Proposition 8 is underway now that:

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice.

What I find fascinating is how similar the comments being made by all of the various talking heads are to one another. They don’t mention that Prop 8 barely passed with 52.2% of the vote, which was down from the 61.4% that the very same measure (Prop 22) passed with only 8 years earlier, they speak about how “over seven million voters voted for the measure.” They don’t speak about how certain groups regularly seek to bypass around our elected representatives (as we are, in fact, a democratically elected representative democracy), and use direct ballot initiatives to place what are now, in fact, unconstitutional measures on California ballots. Rather, we hear speak of how “activist judges” “disregarded the will of the people,” “set aside a democratic vote,” and “legislated from the bench,” as if the popular views of a voting public always produce fair and equitable laws. (Seriously, ask yourself: were the issue of slavery or the equal rights of African-Americans placed on the ballot in a southern state in 1860 – or 1960 for that matter – would the voting public abolished slavery? The fact that a war was fought to, among other things, defend the practice – with guns in the 1860s and water canons in the 1960s – may help answer that question.)

We are also hearing the “slippery slope” argument invoked at every opportunity: if now this, what’s next? Similarly, we are hearing form many Christians appeals to the Bible that Prop 8 supporters dared not make during the campaign for fear of revealing their obviously unconstitutional desire to influence the state with church directives.

Regarding the “illicitness” of homosexuality in the Bible, allow me to make a few brief observations. It is interesting that the other forms of what many refer to as illicit sexual behavior are actually condoned in the bible. Polygamy was all the rage until Paul encouraged Christians in 1 Cor. 7 to stop getting married altogether (unless, of course, you lacked self control, in which case he asked Christians to limit themselves to merely one wife). Marrying a bride-child under the age of 18 was the norm as long as her father agreed to the price he was paid for her. Incest wasn’t frowned upon because staying in the tribe was considered more important than staying out of your half-sister’s pants.

The point is, there are many things sanctioned in the Bible that are today considered criminal (slavery, suppression of women’s rights, etc.). Today we have remedied many of these things, despite what the biblical text says.

Likewise, there are sexual restrictions in the Bible that modern society has maintained because they are exploitative towards marginalized persons. You can no longer marry or have sex with a child, despite the fact it was done legally all the time in the Bible. It is exploitative of children and therefore forbidden. It is argued that many women in polygamous relationships are suppressed and exploited, so after much debate, the U.S. banished it. I am open to having the debate once again, as it is never wrong to revisit issues that were once decided long ago. But I think we’ll find that on both popular and civil rights grounds, polygamy will not pass muster.

The difference with homosexuality is that it is a decision made by two consenting adults with no victim. Because married couples no longer feel the pressure to produce children, and because few Americans no longer feel that sex is only for the “reproduction of children,” a childless relationship is no longer considered inappropriate. And, because there are no data showing that the presumed negative effect on children being raised outside of a relationship consisting of “one mother and one father” is any greater than children raised in families that have experienced divorce (and there is certainly no constitutional amendment barring divorce or barring divorced individuals from remarrying!) the “it’s bad for the children” argument also falls flat.

This generation has witnessed homosexuality depart the category of “illicit activity” (bestiality, polygamy, incest, etc.) and join the category of previously prohibited biblical activities that modern people (Christians and non-Christians alike) now find acceptable (like eating pork, mixing milk and meat in the same meal, planting different crops side by side, allowing divorced people to remarry, mowing the lawn on Saturday, allowing women authority over men, and, you know… not owning slaves!

“It’s icky” is no longer a good argument against gay marriage. Slippery slope arguments (like, “If we allow gay marriage, then what’s next? Polygamy? Marrying a goat?” etc.) also fall flat on a case-by-case basis because they exploit the civil rights of others (not to mention the goats). Appealing to biblical precedent is hypocritical (see slavery, genocide, etc.), and arguing that it’s “unnatural” casts aside hundreds of other human behaviors that are obviously unnatural and self-destructive like overeating, eating processed foods (what other animal does that?), smoking, drinking, and wearing makeup.

In the end, all that’s left is a simple appeal to the way it’s always been: “preserving traditional marriage.” And just like this same appeal to the status quo has time and again been defeated (slavery, women’s rights, etc.), so too has the restrictions on gay marriage. And this is a good thing. Of course, some will object and deny gay marriage, while others will speak out on the side of equal rights for all. But I believe in the end, many Americans will do as Jesus did and not mention the subject at all. Because most Christians and most Americans simply don’t care about what other people do in their bedrooms… unless a video of it can be accessed anonymously via the internet.

california court rightfully strikes down the bad law that was prop 8

No on Prop 8he struck it down. may it rest in peace (although we know there’s no chance of that).

the la times is reporting:

A federal judge in San Francisco decided today that gays and lesbians have a constitutional right to marry, striking down Proposition 8, the voter approved ballot measure that banned same-sex unions.

U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker said Proposition 8, passed by voters in November 2008, violated the federal constitutional rights of gays and lesbians to marry the partners of their choice. His ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court.

cnn has the story here. yahoo is here.

kudos to chief u.s. district judge vaughn walker for doing the right thing. of course, this will be appealed to the u.s. 9th circuit court of appeals (good luck there ;-) and then on to the u.s. supreme court. at that point, the supreme court may take up the case and rule (which is what everyone wants, but will spell certain disaster for one political group – hint: believe it or not, it’s the group that wins), or the court may choose not to rule on a state’s matter.

of course, we will not stop hearing the mantra of how an ‘activist court’ ‘disregarded the will of the people’ and ‘legislated from the bench.’ we’re going to hear that until we’re sick of it. of course, we didn’t hear that from conservatives when the supreme court overturned gun bans in dc and chicago, but i digress. (remember: when we read ‘legislating from the bench,’ we should actually read ‘legislating form the bench against my point of view.’) i wonder how long it will take for prop 8 supporters to cry foul and complain about the fact that the judge was himself gay?

sometimes, or very rare occasions, certain groups (mostly religious groups) rally within a state (and sometimes from outside a state’s borders) to bypass the elected representative legislature (via direct ballot initiative) and fund, support, rally behind, and pass a bad, discriminatory law. that’s what some people in california (and utah) did with prop 8, the initiative to ban gay marriage in california.

the court reached the correct decision today. the pro-prop 8’ers intentionally bypassed the legislature to pass a bad law. the court rightfully overturned it.

page 135 of the judge’s ruling concludes:

“Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite- sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.”

the comment from the remedies on p. 136 is also worthy of note:

“California officials have chosen not to defend Proposition 8 in these proceedings.”

that is to say, they knew it was unconstitutional, and any lawmaker that supports prop 8 outside of an über-conservative district is finished. prop 8 supporters knew that playing on the fears and/or beliefs of the populace via direct ballot initiative was the only possible way to ram this initiative through into law. and now, that law is gone. (now, if we can only get rid of the ballot initiative process…)

now for the appeals.

i am wondering: the first time a gay marriage ban was placed on the california ballot (prop 22 of 2000), it passed with 61.4% of the vote. the second time (prop 8 of 2008) it passed with only 52.2% of the vote – a loss of over 9% in 8 years. i wonder when they put another gay marriage ban on the california ballot (and they most certainly will) if it will even pass? 2.2% more and it fails. given the current trends state-wide and nationally, the group that wants to discriminate against homosexuals is running out of bullets.

if m.i.t.’s methodology is correct, i may be outed against my knowledge

researchers at boston’s massachusetts institute of technology (m.i.t.) have apparently developed a way to determine whether or not someone is gay (well, at least gay on facebook). this new technological advance purports to determine statistically whether or not one is gay by examining a person’s facebook profile, including the sexual orientation of one’s facebook friends.

…two students in a course on Internet ethics and law designed a program that looked at the profile information—including gender and sexuality—of a person’s Facebook friends and analyzed the information to predict the person’s sexuality. The students called the program “Gaydar.”

as many of you know, i’m a huge facebooker. in fact, facebook was instrumental in helping me win carl kasell’s voice on my home answering device on ‘wait wait…don’t tell me!,’ the npr news quiz. and i’ll tell you right now: i have many facebook friends, including many gay facebook friends. up until recently, my relationship status has always been hidden (in keeping with my now six-year old policy of ‘my private life is none of your business.’) likewise, i have regularly written against california’s proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriage in california (see also here and here and here). likewise, i am single, clean, in shape, in my mid-thrities, use a mac, drive a hybrid prius, own a cat, love coldplay, regularly write poetry, work in west los angeles, and have generally been described as a ‘metrosexual’ (however one defines it).

so i am curious (not bi-curious, just curious): what will the m.i.t. researchers conclude about me? imho, the fact that i’m writing about this betrays what i already think their conclusion will be. i don’t care if m.i.t. or fresno city college is running the numbers, statistically, i’m gonna make a few blips on the so-called ‘gaydar.’

but should this be the case? should we assume that advocates for same-sex marriage and those who love listening to ani difranco sing ‘little plastic castle’ are themselves gay? part of the reason i never answer the question of ‘are you gay’ is because so much of the anti-gay and anti-same-sex marriage lobby relies on the assumption that those who show solidarity with gay causes must themselves be gay. they may never say so aloud, but they rely on the assumed implication to marginalize the person at church at work within certain social circles. while this may not necessarily be the case, every time a straight man emphatically answers, ‘no!’ to the question of, ‘are you gay,’ it perpetuates this assumption. of course, there are some occasions where the question can and should be answered (like getting hit on in a bar, or a party, or a library, or a public lecture, or at sbl, or at church or, well, you get the picture). but, when someone inappropriately asks, ‘are you gay?’ for reasons of marginalizing the one questioned, straight men need to begin answering, ‘that’s none of your business.’ the sooner straight individuals stop answering the question, the sooner those asking will learn that is an inappropriate question to ask.

while statistical correlations can sometimes indicate certain likelihoods, these statistical trends cannot and should not be used to stereotype, pigeonhole, discriminate against, or define individuals. being friends with, hanging out with, or spending time with individuals of certain persuasions does not result in one being of a similar persuasion. was jesus a prostitute? a tax-collector? a leper? a drunk?? black friends do not make me black. muslim friends do not make me muslim. straight friends do not make me straight. and gay friends do not make me gay. likewise, one who supports the civil rights of homosexuals is not necessarily gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), just as supporting the civil rights of women, blacks, or straight white males does not make one a woman, black, or a straight white male. we should be free to love one another and do business with, eat dinner with, worship with, marry, live next to, and simply befriend individuals of all races, religions, nationalities, genders, and sexual orientations without being chastised for being friends with them.

i am very comfortable with my masculinity and i do not need to act macho, make fun of homosexuals, denigrate women, or drive a muscle car to try to convince prove to the world i am straight. to me, raging, macho heterosexuals are just as annoying as flamboyant, in-your-face homosexuals. why can’t we simply comfortable with who we are? let the quirky be quirky. let the nerds be nerds. let the gregarious be gregarious. let the soft-spoken be soft-spoken. let the straight be straight. let the gay be gay. and let those who cannot accept those who are different from themselves (or some contrived religious ideal) remain alone in their insecure, judgmental, cookie-cutter, tract housing, suburban, plain vanilla lives.

as for me, i shall continue to state what i have always stated: i like what i like, i’ll date whomever i’ll date, and my sexual orientation is none of your business. i shall continue to add gay and straight friends alike on facebook, and will not ignore their friend requests because they happen to declare a different sexual orientation than my own. and if researchers at m.i.t. want to think i’m gay, it’s fine by me. from what i’ve experienced, they won’t be the only ones.

question for the ‘yes on prop 8’ supporters: who can caster semenya marry?

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

South African gold-medallist Caster Semenya

i have a question for all of the california ‘yes on proposition 8’ supporters and others who support bans on gay marriage:

who can caster semenya marry?

it was revealed that south african olympic runner caster semenya is an intersexual individual (traditionally called hermaphrodites).

South African gold-medallist Semenya, 18, has both male and female organs, it was claimed…Semenya is claimed to have NO womb or ovaries — and has internal testes, the male sexual organs which produce testosterone.

first, i want to say that i can’t possibly comprehend what it must be like growing up as an intersexual individual in a society that sees issues of gender in such a markedly binary manner. gender issues are confusing enough if you are merely male or female, but to grow up in a sex-obsessed world arguing about issues of same-sex marriage as a hermaphrodite? this seems incredibly difficult.

i want to lend my support and sympathy to caster semenya, not for her physical makeup – she should be proud of who she is. but, i want to encourage her to stay strong in her life as an olympian and a woman (the gender she has chosen).

however, i cannot help but ask a few questions to those that oppose same sex marriage and to those that oppose women’s full inclusion, participation, and leadership in the church.

who can caster semenya marry? can she marry a man? would you let her marry a woman?

can she preach in a church? can she lead singing? can she serve as an elder? a pastor?

while these questions are answered quite simply by those of us that support gender equity and same-sex marriage, the answers are a little more difficult for those wishing to impose traditional (and quite physiologically ignorant) opinions on the matter. the bible speaks of male and female, but does not consider asexual, hermaphroditic, or other intersexual individuals. quite frankly, hermaphrodites do not fit the ‘biblical’ paradigm that many wish to enforce.

hermaphrodite_symbolhow can we continue to impose male/female gender regulations from a book that fails to address intersexual individuals upon a modern society. studies show that about 1% of all children born express some degree of sexual ambiguity, and 1 in every 2,000 newborns is born in a pronounced intersexual state. sure, these individuals are in the extreme minority, but if christians truly believe that every individual person is loved – and most say uniquely created (some might say intelligently designed) – by god, how can we impose gender restrictions upon individuals that possess both genders? it is no longer acceptable for fundamentalists simply to argue that the only acceptable christian lifestyle for intersexual individuals is lifelong abstinence. it is no sin, and they (nor their parents) did nothing wrong.

it is time for christians (and jews, and muslims, and peoples of all faiths) to recognize that some social institutions mentioned in the bible are no longer valid in modern society. the bible allows for slavery, but modern society has condemned this practice. the bible not only allows for, but at times commands genocide, but modern society has condemned this practice. likewise, the bible promotes the continued subjugation of women and homosexuals based upon antiquated and scientifically ignorant understandings of what it means to be a human with gender. it is time we once and for all did away with calls by christians to continue to ban same-sex marriage and women’s participation in church worship and leadership. it is time to accept that not all people in christ are ‘male and female’ (gal. 3:28) and realize that like its endorsement of slavery, the subjugation of women, homosexuals, and intersexual individuals is no longer acceptable.

Full Text of Dr. Cargill’s Remarks at the Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion on Racism and Homophobia

Remarks for Pepperdine GSEP Panel Discussion Entitled:

Promoting Social Justice: Confronting Racism and Homophobia

By Robert R. Cargill, Ph.D.

March 24, 2009

Pepperdine University Graduate School of Education and Psychology

WLA campus – Howard Hughes Center

6100 Center Dr., Los Angeles, 90045 (Room 203)

Before I begin my prepared remarks this evening, let me first extend my thanks to Pepperdine University, to the Graduate School of Education and Psychology, to Dean Margaret Weber for her leadership, and to those who worked hard behind the scenes like Vanessa Jahn to bring about this event. I want to publicly praise Dr. Weber and GSEP for their interest in an open dialogue about the issues of homophobia and racism, and the Christian’s role in this debate. I believe the only way we will ever come to terms with issues like gay marriage and California Proposition 8, racism, anti-Semitism, and other forms of social injustice, is to participate in open, professional, respectful, and constructive discussions with those individuals and groups with whom we disagree. I commend this forum, the other panelists, and GSEP’s willingness to discuss this topic in the midst of the ongoing debate. Thank you for your invitation, and I appreciate the opportunity to address you this evening and participate in this panel.

And now to my prepared remarks.

On March 5, 2009, Pepperdine University School of Law Dean Kenneth Starr, a former U.S. Solicitor General, and Independent Counsel investigating President Clinton, presented oral arguments before the California State Supreme Court in defense of California Proposition 8. Dean Starr’s arguments were given in response to a legal challenge brought by several gay rights organizations as well as state Attorney General Jerry Brown’s office seeking to overturn the November 2008 California ballot measure Proposition 8, which overturned an earlier 2008 California Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in the state of California. The fourteen-word proposition read simply: “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” And while this proposition was intentionally terse and simply stated, its repercussions are far-reaching and unambiguous.

The November 2008 vote resulted in a simple majority of Californians overturning state law, and amending the state constitution to prohibit recognition of same-sex marriages. In filing their legal challenge, the state Attorney General’s office asked the court to invalidate Proposition 8 on the grounds that certain fundamental rights, including the right to marry, are inalienable, and that the civil rights of a group in a minority cannot be dictated by the mere popular vote of a majority. For his part, Dean Starr’s argument focused less upon gay marriage, and more upon the legal issue of whether the people of California have the right under the California constitution to amend the constitution and overturn a specific decision of the California Supreme Court.

The outcome of this legal drama is yet to be determined. The California Supreme Court has 90 days from the date of the oral arguments, March 6, to rule on the case. But regardless of the outcome, we can be assured that one side will protest the ruling, and seek to have yet another ballot measure placed on the California ballot.

While this legal battle wages on, we, as people of faith and citizens of the state must wrestle with additional issues pertaining to same-sex marriage, including, but not limited to issues of social justice, the alienation of those ruled against, and what will be the counseling of and ministering to what could be thousands of families having divorce forced upon them by the state due to the passage and subsequent legal upholding of Proposition 8.

Those of us who are committed to serving, defending, and advocating on behalf of those experiencing social injustice must, to the best of our ability, attempt to maintain certain levels of trustworthiness, consistency, and credibility with society. If we fail to act with compassion and empathy toward those affected by the coming legal decisions, regardless of our opinion of homosexuality and same-sex marriage, we risk not only losing effectiveness as individual counselors, confidants, educators, therapists, and advocates, but we risk causing further harm to the already rapidly diminishing reputations of institutions of faith, be it Christianity, Judaism or other faith-based traditions, and increased skepticism of their effectiveness, and dare I say, relevance in today’s society. As professionals, we must maintain a focused level of service to those who are suffering first and foremost, and only then, in a secondary place, to issues of public policy and political position taking.

Unfortunately, this will be more difficult for members of the Pepperdine community, due to the unfortunate events that played out during the 2008 campaign. Pepperdine was thrust into the midst of this debate due in no small part to the advocacy of School of Law Professor Richard Peterson and his very public, very televised advocacy for Proposition 8 and the campaign in favor of “traditional” marriage.

Now, I respect Richard Peterson, and I respect his right to advocate on behalf of the issues in which he believes strongly. For that matter, I respect tremendously Dean Ken Starr and his professional and thoughtful arguments in support of Proposition 8. These men have the right to speak in support of issues they feel important to them, as do I.

But the Pepperdine community found itself thrust into a debate that it tried strongly to avoid. Despite the repeated efforts in the form of press releases and emails to the Pepperdine community to declare a position of political neutrality with regard to Proposition 8, President Andrew Benton could not help but watch the public, the media, and the nation, cast Pepperdine as a fundamentalist, religiously right, politically conservative opponent of same-sex marriage. Despite the fact that the School of Law held open discussions for and against gay marriage, in spite of repeated pronouncements that Pepperdine took no official position on the issue of gay marriage, and despite the fact that there are scores of Pepperdine faculty members and students that opposed and voted against Proposition 8, Pepperdine, its faculty, and most unfortunately, its students were typecast as strident opponents of gay marriage, largely because of the very public role played by Professor Peterson, who became the de facto “Yes on 8” spokesperson.

The Pepperdine community, and specifically those of you in this room committed to working with those potentially affected by Proposition 8, have your work cut out for you. The dilemma for Pepperdine, a prominent Christian University in Southern California, and its students is one of trust and credibility with regard to counseling and ministry to marginalized communities, including homosexuals. How can a Christian university be trusted to counsel and minister to those harmed by the state’s decision to ban same-sex marriage if two of the major legal operatives for the “Yes on 8” campaign are prominent Pepperdine employees? And how do we deal with those who feel some degree of anger, resentment, and frustration towards us because of our affiliation with Pepperdine?

As a scholar in the field of Biblical Studies, I have addressed ways in which we can approach the issues of “biblical sanction” for marriage, if such a thing can be said to exist. For the sake of time, I shall reserve comments on the specifics of my arguments for the discussion period. For a detailed analysis of this issue, please see my essay entitled, “It is OK for Christians to Vote No on Prop 8” on my website, bobcargill.com. In my remaining time, I shall offer only a summary of my argument.

The key to counseling those affected by racism or homophobia from a standpoint of faith is to approach the biblical text with a hermeneutic (or way of reading the Bible) that is thematic, as opposed to fundamentalist or literal, and which understands the Bible as a narrative about individuals of faith written by individuals of faith within a particular social context in a given period in history. This means approaching the Bible not as a blueprint, or as a set of rules, but as a document that records the earliest attempts by people of faith to demonstrate the presence of God through ministry towards the marginalized.

When we approach the text as a body of law to which we appeal in order to draw support for our predetermined positions, we rip verses from their textual and social contexts, and can make the Bible say pretty much whatever we want it to say. This is called prooftexting, and leads to countless problems theologically as well as practically. The alternative is to understand the text as an attempt to communicate a knowledge of God and a care for the suffering to others. This approach sees the text not only as the word of God, but also as a product of the various cultures in which they were written, including Canaanite, Assyrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and Roman. The statutes and directives offered by the biblical text are understood not as rules binding all peoples of all cultures for all time, but as directives for a particular audience in a particular social setting. Approaching the biblical text in this thematic and social way not only allows for the biblical text to remain relevant to societies as they evolve and develop over time, but guards against glaring inconsistencies stemming from fundamentalist readings of the text.

To illustrate the problems encountered by attempting to apply the “rules” of the Bible to all societies for all time, I shall offer a few examples. The examples I have chosen for this exercise have special importance to the issue of marriage, especially those arguing for a “traditional” or even a “Christian” model of marriage.

First, the idea that there exists a singular “biblical” model for marriage is a myth. The Hebrew Bible (the Christian Old Testament) clearly demonstrates that polygamy was the acceptable marital norm, and that acceptable ways of procuring a wife included working fourteen years for your uncle in exchange for his two daughters (Jacob in Gen. 29), demanding your parents bring you the wife of your choice (Samson in Judg. 14), hiding in the bushes and snatching dancing women (Benjamites of Judg. 21), collecting 200 foreskins of your father-in-law’s enemies in exchange for a wife (David in 1 Sam. 18), killing a man and taking his wife (David again in 2 Sam. 11), marrying a prostitute (Hosea 1), getting a woman as a part of  a land purchase (Boaz in Ruth 4), and of course, just having God make you a wife while you sleep (Adam in Gen 2).

As far as the New Testament is concerned, the apostle Paul clearly states in 1 Cor. 7 that if a Christian ideal exists, it is life as an unwed, single person. Paul goes so far as to offer the timeless wisdom of 1 Cor. 7:28 when he states, “But those who marry will face many troubles in this life, and I want to spare you this.”

Second, Christians have learned to address other social prohibitions mentioned in the Bible in alternative ways. I shall offer three brief examples. The first is that of the social institution of slavery. Col. 3:22 states, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything, not only while being watched and in order to please them, but wholeheartedly.” 1 Pet. 2:18 says that slaves should obey even harsh slave masters, stating, “Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.” Eph. 6:5 goes so far as to equate one’s service to one’s master with service to Jesus himself, stating, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, in singleness of heart, as you obey Christ.” Not only does the Bible not view the social institution of slavery as a sin, but on several occasions endorses the practice, adjuring slaves to comply with the institution of slavery. Additionally, in the biblical letter of Philemon, the apostle Paul insists that a runaway slave named Onesimus return to his slave master Philemon. Far from any “I have a dream” speech, the Bible appears to consistently endorse the practice of slavery, that is, if the Bible is read fundamentally.

It is important to underscore the fact that these biblical passages did not magically disappear from the Bible during the early abolitionist movement or throughout the Civil War. In fact, it was conservative, fundamentalist Christians that were openly advocating for the continuation of slavery, citing both tradition and the biblical precedent of the practice of slavery as evidence of “God’s plan” and approval of the continued suppression of the civil rights of certain individuals.

Fortunately, by the time the civil rights movement arrived in the 1960’s, a majority of Americans were prepared to grant equal rights to African-Americans. However in the southern Bible Belt, where a more fundamentalist reading of the Bible is espoused, the integration of public schools had to be forced upon the populace with the landmark judgment in the case of Oliver Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka. Thus, the issue of slavery offers us a perfect example of a social practice where the Bible clearly states a position (an endorsement of and comfort with the practice of slavery) that our modern democracy has rejected outright. Modern people of faith have learned to read the biblical verses pertaining to slavery as products of a 2000-year old social environment, and not as eternal mandates for all peoples for all time, and rightly so.

Let us look at another example: the portrayal of the role of women in the Bible. On several occasions in the Bible, women are instructed to “remain silent” and to “submit to their husbands.” 1 Cor. 14:34 states, “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says,” demonstrating that the early church simply accepted existing laws ordering women to remain subject to men. 1 Tim. 2:12 states, “I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent,” again reinforcing the notion that women are subject to men’s authority. Col. 3:18 reminds women, “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord,” noting that a wife’s submission to her husband is ordained by God. Eph. 5:22-23 makes the case for a hierarchy among men and women more clearly, stating, “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church.”

There is clear traditional and biblical evidence that argues that women should remain in their “God given” roles as secondary to men. And yet, many Christians have rightly learned to understand these prohibitions as a result of a long history of subjugation of women, including the Greco-Roman period, in which the New Testament was composed. Thus, despite the biblical injunctions adjuring women to remain silent, most Christians have allowed women equal rights, at least in the civic arena, where the issue of Proposition 8 and gay marriage is being debated.

I shall also point out the tremendous irony that women have achieved in civil society what they are still struggling to achieve in the church. Despite Gal. 3:28’s conclusion that “in Christ there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female,” it is precisely “in Christ” (that is, in the church) that women still do not enjoy the same levels of equality as they experience in the secular world. Clearly, there is still much work for Christians to do with regard to the role of women in the church.

The third manner in which Christians have learned to reinterpret biblical passages pertaining specifically to marriage that they find to their dislike is with regard to verses addressing divorce. If a definition of “biblical sin” is the standard by which some Christians are denying same-sex couples the civil rights that accompany marriage, then why are other actions described as “sins” in the Bible, such as divorce, not also grounds for the denial of the right to marry? The Bible speaks plainly about divorce, stating in 1 Cor. 7:11 that a divorced individual should be reconciled to his or her spouse or should not remarry. There is no doubt that in most cases, divorce negatively affects child rearing and gender roles (or lack thereof) in divorced, single parent homes—an argument repeatedly made by proponents of Prop 8 as to why same-sex couples should not be allowed to marry. Why is same-sex marriage treated differently than divorce, when both are given as reasons not to marry in the Bible? To most Christians, divorce is just as much a sin as homosexuality, yet, despite clear biblical injunctions against divorced individuals remarrying, we do not see a group dedicated to “protecting traditional marriage” introducing ballot measures and constitutional amendments calling for the prohibition of same-sex marriages, nor for the dissolution of those marriages that have already taken place in which one of those being wed was divorced. Likewise, there is no proposed state proposition that would prohibit divorced individuals seeking to remarry from receiving state marriage benefits. This is because, as far as divorce is concerned, Christians have learned to separate the scriptural teachings on divorce from the civil and state ramifications of it. Divorced individuals have the legal right to remarry in this state, even though the Bible prohibits it. Why should it be any different for same-sex couples seeking to get married?

Issues such as the practice of slavery, women’s role in society, and issues of divorce clearly demonstrate that Christians can and have learned to separate biblical teachings concerning social issues from modern state law. Despite the Bible’s prohibition or endorsement of certain social practices in the first two centuries of the Common Era, Christians have gradually accepted that the attitudes towards some of these social practices have changed, and have allowed the state to legislate accordingly.

If Christians continue to impose a fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible upon state law, not only do we open ourselves to much deserved accusations of blatant hypocrisy, but we risk imposing upon the state the very real threat of a Christian equivalent of Sharia Law—the very thing we condemn in fundamentalist Islamic countries.

But for those of us seeking to live out lives of advocacy for social justice, the issue is not only one of legality, but also one of service and support of all those affected by the same-sex marriage debate on both sides of the issue. Those of us that counsel, teach, and minister from standpoints of faith must overcome this additional societal skepticism. Whether or not one believes homosexuality to be a “sin,” we must all agree that we are to seek opportunities to serve all those marginalized by our state’s decisions, whatever they might be. Regardless of our stance on same-sex marriage, we must commit ourselves to patience, understanding, and support of all those affected by this very real debate.

I want the Pepperdine community to hear me on this: It is simply not enough to declare political neutrality on issues that adversely affect the daily lives of so many of those that live and work among us! For those faculty members and students in the Pepperdine community who oppose Proposition 8, there needs to be a more public and vocal effort made to defend the rights of those being discriminated against and to serve them, even if you happen to disagree with their system of beliefs.

Those Pepperdine employees who promoted and defended Proposition 8 were vociferous and adamant about their position. It is not enough for those Pepperdine faculty members and students who oppose Prop 8 to stand idly by and hold the coats of those who promote Prop 8, and who openly advocate for constitutional discrimination against homosexuals!

The Christian that argues that the prohibitions against homosexuals are effective for all cultures and for all time must also be prepared to declare equally and consistently that the directives endorsing slavery and the subjugation of women, as well as the prohibition against allowing divorced individuals to remarry are equally valid for all times. Anything less than an equally vociferous campaign against allowing women to have authority over men, or in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban divorced individuals from remarrying, lacks consistency, loses all credibility, and well deserves the label of unapologetic hypocrite!

But those of us who seek to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God, will learn to approach the Bible as we do those whom we serve: with patience, forgiveness, empathy, and the kind of service and support that cares for the person, and not for the political position. Of course, some will argue that issues of slavery and the suppression of women are “different” than the present debate over same-sex marriage. They will argue that those were different times, and that we now live in a different society, far removed from the atrocities of slavery and the subjugation of women. And yet, at some point in history, those past issues were the present, and those debates and battles became riots and unfortunately, a civil war. It is my prayer that we do not look back 40 years from now at what we are doing to homosexuals today in the same way we now look back 40 years ago in disgust at what our nation did to African-Americans. Because yesterday’s “they” is today’s “we,” and we now have the opportunity to remedy the discrimination “we” have recently set into law in the name of “tradition.” May we continue to advocate against this grave injustice, and may we do so before any more lives and loving relationships are asked to take a second-class seat at the back of the bus.

Thank you.

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