Hating Homosexuals: The Bible Has Some Other Rules For You Too

godhatesfagsThe question of how big a role religion should play in our day-to-day lives pops up on a frequent basis whenever issues like abortion, gay rights, and evolution work their way into the headlines. For some people, every decision a person or a government makes must be in alignment with some set of religious principles. There is no room for public or private decisions that do not pass some religious test. At the same time, when we condemn some heinous act in Afghanistan perpetrated upon some helpless woman by the Taliban in the name of Islam, we seem to understand that religion and politics don’t mix all that well. When an adulterer in Saudi Arabia is stoned to death for violating someone’s interpretation of the Qur’an, we are quick to criticize both the religion and the people who use it to handle civic justice. Most of us understand why our country stands above many others when it comes to the mixing of church and state. But there is that small segment of our population who are all for a separation of church and state, except when it’s their religion and their state.

Members of the radical “Christian” right wrongly claim that our Founding Fathers were all Christian and that they intended the United States to be a Christian country all along. I have read countless arguments on both sides of this issue, but the most compelling comes from the pens of Jefferson and Madison themselves, the architects of our two most important documents: the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

Jefferson wrote frequently about the dangers of mixing religion and politics. He fought against including the words “Jesus Christ” in the preamble to the Virginia Act for Religious Freedom:

  • Where the preamble declares, that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed by inserting “Jesus Christ,” so that it would read “A departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion;” the insertion was rejected by the great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mohammedan, the Hindoo and Infidel of every denomination

Perhaps his most succinct call for a genuine separation of church and state came in a letter he wrote in 1813:

  • “History, I believe, furnishes no example of a priest-ridden people maintaining a free civil government. This marks the lowest grade of ignorance of which their civil as well as religious leaders will always avail themselves for their own purposes.”

Finally, among his most famous quotes is this one engraved on the Jefferson Memorial. Oddly, it is often perversely used by the radical “Christian” right to argue in favor of Jefferson’s alleged Christianity.

  • I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.

The problem is, however, that the above quotation is an excerpt from this larger statement written in a letter in 1800:

  • They [the clergy] believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly; for I have sworn upon the altar of god, eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man. But this is all they have to fear from me: and enough, too, in their opinion

The tyranny that Jefferson was fighting, was the tyranny of the radical “Christians” of his time. Jefferson believed in some sort of god who created the universe, but he steadfastly opposed influence in government by the clergy, be they Protestant or Catholic.

As for Madison, there is little doubt that he was a Christian. He wrote often about the importance of the moral teachings of Jesus Christ. But he wrote more often and more passionately about separating church and state. In 1822, he wrote:

  • An alliance or coalition between Government and religion cannot be too carefully guarded against……Every new and successful example therefore of a PERFECT SEPARATION between ecclesiastical and civil matters is of importance……..religion and government will exist in greater purity, without (rather) than with the aid of government.

It is not my intent to provide an exhaustive study of Madison and Jefferson, nor do I think one is needed. Both were avid readers of history and politics. Both understood the danger of mixing religion and politics because they had seen what was happening in Europe and the many thousands of deaths done in the name of God. Neither wanted that model for America, and we have their passionate defense of the wall between church and state to thank for whatever religious freedoms we have today.

Their original intent hasn’t stopped various religions from trying to encroach on government, of course. Paranoid Congressman added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in the 1950’s because I suppose they figured God would otherwise have trouble distinguishing the tyranny of Communism from the tyranny of those opposing Communism. For many years students were forced to pray in public schools against any personal objection they might have had to this practice. While the words “so help me God” are not part of the official oath of office for the President, failure to utter these words by an incoming President would cause a national furor.

It is with this understanding about how religion and politics are supposed to coexist, without one governing the other, that I stared wide-eyed at a letter to the editor printed in the Petoskey News Review on March 20, 2013. Jon C. Harwood of Petoskey was ripping the News Review for covering the approval of gay marriage within the local Native American community. Harwood ends his diatribe with an invitation to join his Baptist church which apparently is “old-fashioned, Bible believing, and Christ honoring.”

In between his opening attack on the News Review and his closing invitation were some of the same tired arguments about how Harwood and his ilk “know” that God opposes homosexuality. Harwood even says point blank “God opposes this practice.” He then goes on to quote some Bible passages that “prove” this. He pulls out the well known quote from Leviticus 20:13 “If a man also lie with mankind as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.” Now I have no problem with Harwood deciding to suppress whatever homosexual urges he might have and to follow the moral code in which he believes, but in the name of consistency, he should also make sure to follow all of the other proclamations in Leviticus. After all, why should he pick this single declaration from the Bible and ignore the rest? So from now on, I expect Harwood to:

  1. Never eat pork, lobster, crab, oysters, rabbit, clams, or camel since in Leviticus 11, God told Moses that these things may not be eaten.
  2. Not allow his wife or daughter to go to church for 33 days after giving birth to a boy or 66 days after giving birth to a girl because they are unclean during that period (I guess it takes longer to get purified if you have a girl. God sure is funny about girls.) His women cannot also go to church during menstruation. (Leviticus 12)
  3. Follow this ceremony following recovery from disease: “These are the regulations for any diseased person at the time of their ceremonial cleansing, when they are brought to the priest: 3 The priest is to go outside the camp and examine them. If they have been healed of their defiling skin disease,[a] 4 the priest shall order that two live clean birds and some cedar wood, scarlet yarn and hyssop be brought for the person to be cleansed. 5 Then the priest shall order that one of the birds be killed over fresh water in a clay pot.6 He is then to take the live bird and dip it, together with the cedar wood, the scarlet yarn and the hyssop, into the blood of the bird that was killed over the fresh water. 7 Seven times he shall sprinklethe one to be cleansed of the defiling disease, and then pronounce them clean. After that, he is to release the live bird in the open fields.” (Leviticus 14)
  4. Not cut your hair or get a tattoo (Leviticus 19)
  5. Prevent the disabled from going to church because ‘For the generations to come none of your descendants who has a defect may come near to offer the food of his God. 18 No man who has any defect may come near: no man who is blind or lame, disfigured or deformed; 19 no man with a crippled foot or hand, 20 or who is a hunchback or a dwarf, or who has any eye defect, or who has festering or running sores or damaged testicles. 21 No descendant of Aaron the priest who has any defect is to come near to present the food offerings to the LORD. He has a defect; he must not come near to offer the food of his God. 22 He may eat the most holy food of his God, as well as the holy food; 23 yet because of his defect, he must not go near the curtain or approach the altar, and so desecrate my sanctuary. I am the LORD, who makes them holy. (Leviticus 21)

There are lot more really interesting things in Leviticus, but you get the point. Why do otherwise solid Christians violate the rules so often yet pick one statement about homosexuality to be the rule they follow? It seems to me if the Bible is the literal Word of God, then the Bible is the literal Word of God; those who believe in it should follow all the rules. But Harwood probably has violated most of Leviticus most of his life. It’s sort of amazing he made it through this far without being put to death, since Leviticus details all the things that should cause this ultimate punishment, including cursing your mother and father. We’d have a serious population decline issue if we followed this order from God.

I strongly defend Harwood’s right to believe anything he wants to believe and to follow any of the rules he decides to follow from the Bible while ignoring the rest. But it’s just this cherry picking of rules that invalidates any claim he or his ilk have to setting the rules for the rest of us. He is appalled by homosexuality. I get it. But thankfully, because of men like Jefferson and Madison, the only thing Harwood can do about it is shout selective quotes from the Bible in the newspaper. And that’s the way it should be.

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