In response to a video clip I saw on Facebook/YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao0k9qDsOvs
Frankly, I’m getting a little tired of defending Christianity.
It’s not really a full-blown defense, but more of a subtle education. I walk the line, as Johnny would say, between two communities with bared teeth on either side: Christians and LGBT individuals. However you peg that tightrope walking, it comes across as apologetics—I’m forever explaining to the gays what Christianity, in her best dress, is about. And what have I learned? That American society of the 21st century has little patience for apologetics.
As many of you already know, I have a love-hate relationship with Dan Savage. His voice is strong and necessary—a guidepost for LGBT individuals trying to make their way in a not-yet fully inclusive society. At the same time, he is known to be a bit crass and employ shock-and-awe for the entertainment of his readers and listeners. He would kill me for saying it, but it strikes me that he’s not all that different from Dr. Laura in that approach.
And he hates—unabashedly hates—the conservative religious vendetta against LGBT individuals and all those who keep it going. Who can argue against that? I would be right there alongside him, voicing my distrust and disrespect for the many who still hurl religious condemnations. Many (perhaps most) of those who crusade against the LGBT community are self-professed Christians—to my mind, confused fundamentalists who lost the authentic message of Christian love long since.
But let’s be mature about all this, and take a step back. The hoards of “Christians” who flail in seething hatred for the gays are clearly not in their right minds, nor have they done much reflection on Scripture. They cull verse after verse from the Bible in support of their abusive condemnations, all of them ripped from context and history. There’s no genuine reflection on Scripture here, just a javelin-throwing of words that don’t really stand on their own.
Now, I thought my insistence on approaching the Bible with an eye toward history and context had been overdone. Lord knows I write incessantly on it, and I imagine my readers are done with the point: it has been made. Let’s move on.
But I’m not sure it’s been made well enough. Browsing through Facebook on a recent afternoon, I happened upon a shared video—something a friend had posted and re-posted. It was a three-minute clip of Dan Savage speaking to high school students about journalism, and it somehow roped in a discussion of the Bible.
The problem is, Dan doesn’t discuss. He rails. He rants. Ironically, he pontificates. And his message was simple: stop turning to the Bible for support of the condemnation of gays. Which I was on board with, until he explained his reasoning.
I don’t have the text in front of me, so I’ll paraphrase. He said, in essence, that we (presumably Christian society) chose at some point to ignore the inane directives of Old Testament books like Leviticus because, well, they’re simply inane. The examples are legion: murdering of non-virgins on their wedding night, no touching of pig skin, consulting mediums, etc. We laugh at all of these nowadays and don’t think twice about tossing them out.
So why do some of us choose to cling so strongly to verses condemning homosexuality? Why not just ignore those too? That was his point. We’ve ignored shit in the Bible before that didn’t make any sense to us. Let’s do it again.
First of all, that strikes me as the most immature approach to the subject that anyone could possibly have. Second, it is an utterly disrespectful treatment of the Bible as a holy text. Third, it’s the easy way out.
So I offer my rebuttal: Just because it appears we ignore Levitical code, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. It is, without a doubt, the easy thing to do. But if we’re going that route, why not just ditch the Bible completely? Dan could just as easily have said that the whole book was bunk, and dismissed everything from Genesis to Revelation.
The truth is, there are many, many Christians out there who have worked to engage the Bible thoughtfully and carefully. Sure, the Levitical code seems dated. But if Dan had done a little digging, he would have learned that Jesus himself did away with the old law and instituted a new covenant, which has one absolute rule: love one another. I hardly see Dan arguing with that.
And what about Paul?—that pesky New Testament convert who spoke like he knew God. He knew what the Lord was about, what Christian faith should entail. He prescribed action, meted out judgments from afar, and told inchoate Christian communities what they should and shouldn’t do. Untold centuries and translations later, we get this: gay is bad, mmk?
If that’s what you read, then you have two options. One, consider it in tandem with Christ’s command to love one another. Look deeply at the man Paul, his environment, his history, his language. Peel away the layers that modern Bibles invariably carry to find something a bit more true to the original message. Or two, ignore that shit like some out-of-date Levitical BS.
Dan is right about some things—there is fundamentalist, literalist Christian crap muddying the true message of the faith. It claims it is the message, and that gets on people’s nerves. But let’s be civil about this. Among other things, Paul talks about his own maturation in the New Testament, writing to the Corinthians: “When I was a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” For what it’s worth, it’s a good lesson for us: think deeply and carefully about what you believe and what you profess. If someone—i.e. a rabid Christian fundamentalist—throws stones, don’t throw back. If you follow in a line of followers, go against the grain and be a reconciling leader.
Perhaps Dan doesn’t care what damage he causes the Christian right—or Christianity in general. Christianity has done—and continues to do—indescribable damage to the LGBT community. But that three-minute speech to impressionable high school teens will make it that much more difficult for those trying to reconcile, or share the true message of Christian faith. Part of me feels like that alone sets us back generations.
And part of me knows, despite a rabid insistence on a new look at inclusive Christianity, that repeating the message of Christ’s love is constantly and continuously necessary.