So, this is my life.
And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I'm still trying to figure out how that could be.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
for the Bible tells me so, part II
more excerpts from the fantastic book, The Year of Living Biblically, by A.J. Jacobs.
preev post here.
I'll do the Scalia technique on the Bible. I'll try to find the original intent. I want to live the original religion. A lot of people tell me that such a quest is a fantasy. The Bible was written thousands of years ago by people with profoundly different worldviews. And I agree, it's hard. much harder than finding the original intent of the Constitution, which was at least written in some form of English, even if the Ss and Fs look alike.
The Bible was originally written in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Its journey into other languages has been famously bumpy; the Bible could be the most mistranslated text in history. The Red Sea is a mistranslation of the "Sea of Reeds." The idea that moses (and his descendants) had horns comes from a mistranslation of the Hebrew word qaran. It actually means that Moses's face was shining, or emitting beams of light.
* * *
Day 256. Back in New York, I'm continuing my tutorial in evangelical Christianity. It's Friday night, and I'm sitting in on a Bible study group... We'll be led by a man named Dr. Ralph Blair, who is a hardcore Christian evangelical.
Oh, I should mention one other thing: Ralph Blair is gay. And out-of-the-closet gay. Not, mind you, the I-once-was-gay-but-now-am-cured type of gay. Ralph -- and all the other men in his Bible group -- embrace their homosexuality with the same zeal that ultraconservative evangelicals condemn it...
Of course, Ralph's organization is controversial. And at first blush, it makes about as much sense as an Association of Vegan Burger King Owners. It's at once inspiring and depressing. Inspiring that they have found one another, and depressing because they are part of a movement in which the majority thinks of their sexuality as sinful.
But Ralph says that you have to distinguish between evangelical Christianity and the religious right. The religious right's obsession with homosexuality comes "out of culture, not out of Scripture."
"But there do seem to be antigay passages in the Bible," I say.
"Yes, the so-called clobber passages," he says. 'But I call them the clobbered passages."
Ralph's argument is this: The Bible does not talk about loving same-sex relationships as they exist today. Jesus would have no problem with two men committed to each other. One of Ralph's pamphlets has this headline on the front: "What Jesus Said about Homosexuality." You open up the pamphlet, and there's a BLANK PAGE.
Ralph says that if you look at the Bible's allegedly antigay passages in historical context, they aren't antigay at all. They are actually anti-abuse, or antipaganism. Consider the famous Leviticus passage: "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman, it is an abomination."
"In biblical times, there was no parity between men and women. Women and children were just a bit above slaves. To be with a man like a woman was to disgrace him. It's what soldiers did to their conquered enemies, they raped them."
That famous Leviticus passage is actually merely saying: Do not treat your fellow man disgracefully.
Or take another commonly cited passage in the New Testament, Romans 1:26-27. Here the Apostle Paul rails against those who gave in to "dishonorable passions."
"...Their women exchanged natural relationships for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error."
Ralph says that Paul is preaching here against pagan culting practices - the loveless sex that went on in the idolatrous temples of the day...