Wednesday, 9 April 2008

justifying predudice

We are all familiar with 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." (King James Version):
This has been used time and again to justify bigotry and discrimination against homosexuals. There is a certain amount of honesty about this: if someone believes fervently in a holy book, they might be expected to take what it says seriously. I would be inclined to think of Christians who ignore this biblical law as less honest, if it weren't for the fact that the very Christians who uphold it as biblical and moral necessity, do not tend to ignore large chunks of the rest of Leviticus. For example:
Ye shall keep my statutes. Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee. (19:19, King James Version)
In other words, it is forbidden to mix cattle, crops or fabrics.
Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. (Leviticus 19:27, King James Version)
Or, don't cut your hair or shave.
For every one that curseth his father or his mother shall be surely put to death: he hath cursed his father or his mother; his blood shall be upon him. (Leviticus 20:9, King James Version)
Yes, children should be killed for cursing their parents.
And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. (Leviticus 20:10, King James Version)
And the man that lieth with his father's wife hath uncovered his father's nakedness: both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:11, King James Version)

And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. (Leviticus 20:14, King James Version)
Death for adultery, including various oddly specific clauses, and the entirely horrific death by fire in the latter case.
And if a man lie with a beast, he shall surely be put to death: and ye shall slay the beast. And if a woman approach unto any beast, and lie down thereto, thou shalt kill the woman, and the beast: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:15-16, King James Version)
This seems rather harsh on the animal to say the least.
And if a man shall lie with a woman having her sickness, and shall uncover her nakedness; he hath discovered her fountain, and she hath uncovered the fountain of her blood: and both of them shall be cut off from among their people. (Leviticus 20:18, King James Version)
In other words, if a couple has sex while the woman is menstruating, they will be "cut off from their people", whatever that means. Presumably ostracisation.
A man also or woman that hath a familiar spirit, or that is a wizard, shall surely be put to death: they shall stone them with stones: their blood shall be upon them. (Leviticus 20:27, King James Version)
Stone to death wizards and witches. Which are presumably different from the thousands of Christian saints who supposedly went around suspending the laws of physics.
And the daughter of any priest, if she profane herself by playing the whore, she profaneth her father: she shall be burnt with fire. (Leviticus 21:9, King James Version)
More death by burning, this time for the crime of embarrassing your father. Note that it isn't the prostitution that's the problem: it's the fact that it might embarrass her priest father.
Speak unto Aaron, saying, Whosoever he be of thy seed in their generations that hath any blemish, let him not approach to offer the bread of his God. For whatsoever man he be that hath a blemish, he shall not approach: a blind man, or a lame, or he that hath a flat nose, or any thing superfluous. (Leviticus 21:17-18)
This seems particularly harsh, especially for the people with flat noses. And then of course, there's the infamous:
Bring forth him that hath cursed without the camp; and let all that heard him lay their hands upon his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death. (Leviticus 24:14-16, King James Version)
Stoning to death of blasphemers by the community.

I'm quite aware that although most of these laws seem monstrous now, they might have been seen quite differently in the zeitgeist of the time and I wouldn't presume to judge or to blame. These people were let down by their educators and it is difficult to say that they acted wrongly.

My point is that, for the most part, Christians do not obey these laws. They don't call for murder of adulterers or blasphemers. They are not enraged when those damnable flat-nosed people try to sneak into church, and so on. They usually keep quiet about it, but when pressed will say that these laws are no longer relevant in today's society. But they still cite 20:13 as justification for bigotry against homosexuals. You can't have it both ways. If you pick and choose which verses you are going to take literally and which to obey, you can't claim that the ones you happen to like are the unalterable, undeniable truth of god. And yet this is exactly what a lot of Christians try to do.

Of course, many Christians say that Jesus came along and changed all this cruelty through his teachings of love and forgiveness, meaning we don't have to obey those commands we find barbaric. However, Jesus said:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)
so this sounds like another example of people cherry-picking the bits of the bible they find convenient and pretending the rest doesn't exist. Besides, who says that the new testament takes precedence over the old? Jesus certainly didn't, because what we call the bible didn't exist then.

It is all just a convenient fiction, giving license to their personal prejudices. Note that I'm not saying all Christians hate homosexuals. I'm saying that those that do, but don't obey the other laws in Leviticus, are clearly hypocrites. I'm also saying that it is not valid for such people to cite Leviticus (or any other passage of the bible) as justification to hate homosexuals.

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