Exposing religious jingoism and biblical literalism: Part II

As ordained priest, theologian, psychotherapist and professor of psychology Dr. Daniel Helminiak noted in his book, What the Bible Really Says about Homosexuality, the literal approach to interpretation “cannot use the Bible to answer pressing questions of our day.” Doing so leads to cherry-picking and selective reading and a host of contradictions, not to mention actions that today would be seen as criminal.

Celebrated religious historian Karen Armstrong documented in her book, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, that all religions are made-up, created by men to explain their world and their existence. Every religion has claimed its sacred texts were “the word of God,” but what they are are the words of men written millennia ago; men who had a different worldview and different concerns than those that face us in the twenty-first century. Their purpose in writing those ancient texts has similarities but also critical differences from the task of civil lawmakers today.

Ancient writers—like those who penned the texts selected for inclusion in what we now call “the Bible”—were primarily interested in promulgating their beliefs (and their power) and increasing their tribes, so of course any sexual activity that did not offer the possibility of new tribal members would be discouraged. Masturbation, homogenitality, and any form of primitive contraception would be discouraged and, given the culture of the times, deemed “against God’s will.” Nothing worked better than fear of “god” for primitive peoples who saw gods everywhere and, according to their “prophets,” were beholden to—and should fear—them as is so well expressed in the First Commandment: “And God spake all these words, saying, I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:1–3).

Aside from the absence of any archeological evidence that the Exodus as recorded in the Bible ever really happened, note that Jehovah does not deny the existence of other “gods.” He’s just a jealous fellow who demands he be first with “no other gods before me.” But therein lies one of the purposes of such ancient texts: they were meant to provide a sense of cohesion for their societies, a worldview and yes, “moral” codes consistent with that worldview, as well as their socio-political and economic realities. The problem, of course, with taking biblical texts literally is that those Bronze Age tribal societies are not our societies. Their worldview is not one that coincides with twenty-first century knowledge and realities, and their sense of “morality” is not ours. They condoned slavery. We do not. They saw women as inferior. We do not. They saw children as property a parent could do with as he wished, whether it be selling a daughter into slavery or sacrificing a son to that “jealous god.” We do not agree. The cohesion they may have provided for Bronze Age tribal societies have become violently divisive in our cosmopolitan society:

Just Your Friendly Local Preacher Advocating Death to Gays
By Neal Broverman
May 21 2012

Pastor Charles Worley of Maiden, N.C.’s Providence Road Baptist Church recently told his congregation that lesbians and “queers” should be rounded up, placed in camps with electrified fencing, and left to die.

Worley believes that placing gays in camps will ensure homosexuality dies out since gays “don’t reproduce.” Worley isn’t apologizing for his sermon, saying, “We offer NO apologies in believing the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. . . .”

“Inerrant word of God.” One has to wonder when Pastor Worley will start advocating the murder of people who wear clothing made of two different threads, eat shellfish, or work on the Sabbath . . . as he does. Not surprisingly, the pastor has a long history of preaching hate and encouraging murderous violence:

Antigay Pastor Charles Worley Spewed Hate in 1978
By Michelle Garcia
May 22 2012

Decades before antigay pastor Charles Worley said lesbians and “queers and the homosexuals” should be rounded up, placed in camps surrounded by electric fences and left to die . . . the pastor described other violently homophobic acts against gay people during a sermon.

“ . . . Forty years ago, they would’ve hung ’em—bless God—from a white oak tree,” Worley said in a 1978 sermon that the Providence Road Baptist Church has posted on its website, according to Good As You.

Another biblical literalist was even more direct:

Kansas pastor calls on U.S. government to kill LGBT people
By David Edwards
Wednesday, May 30

The pastor of New Hope Baptist Church [Curtis Knapp] in Seneca, Kansas says President Barack Obama has gone too far in supporting same sex marriage and it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians.

And still another “Christian” pastor and his congregation gleefully taught and applauded hatred when voiced by a child:

Video Shows Child’s Antigay Hymn Getting Huge Applause
By Lucas Grindley
May 30 2012

An Indiana church congregation was caught on video wildly standing in ovation as a young child sings, “Ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.”

The cell phone video was posted on YouTube and has sparked an outrage that has angry commenters flooding a Facebook page for the Apostolic Truth Tabernacle. The Indy Channel reports that it is pastor Jeff Sangl onstage with the boy as he is cheered on by a raucous congregation.

“I know the Bible’s right, somebody’s wrong,” the child sings. “Romans 1 and 27, ain’t no homo going to make it to heaven.”

“That’s my boy!” someone yells from the pews.

Two boys are at the microphone in front of the church, and one is seen running off the stage at the end and high-fiving an adult near the front of the church.

How long will it be until one of the members of these pastors’ congregations acts on what he’s been told is “the word of God”?

Highest Number Of Anti-Gay Murders Ever Reported In 2011: The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs
Lila Shapiro
Posted: 06/02/2012

More murders motivated by anti-gay bias occurred last year than any year since the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs began collecting data in 1998, the national advocacy organization reported this week.

CNN ran a series of similar “specials” after Dr. Helminiak’s article. The May 21 “special”—“My Take: The Bible condemns a lot, but here’s why we focus on homosexuality”—was penned by Albert Mohler, Jr., “president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest seminaries in the world.” In his article Dr. Mohler once again demonstrated his skill at hermeneutical gymnastics, linguistic charades, and conflating fact and belief: as Dr. Helminiak pointed out, all of which are the inevitable consequence of biblical literalism. For example, Dr. Mohler makes the following statement: “Some people then ask, ‘What about slavery and polygamy?’ In the first place, the New Testament never commands slavery, and it prizes freedom and human dignity. . . .”

True. The New Testament does not “command” slavery, but it does certainly support the practice: Ephesians 6:5–9, Colossians 3:22–4:1, 1 Timothy 6:1–2, Peter 2:18. “Freedom and human dignity”? Then why are women consistently deemed second-class and commanded to be subservient to men?

Dr. Mohler has a mixed past when it comes to equal civil rights for gay and lesbian Americans: at once accepting marriage equality as “inevitable,” but yet despite his strong opposition to any prenatal fiddling, he voiced a willingness to do so if it would prevent gay people. On March 2, 2007, Dr. Mohler published an article, titled “Is Your Baby Gay? What If You Could Know? What If You Could Do Something About It?” In the article he implicitly acknowledged that sexual orientation has a genetic component and/or is hormonally determined prior to birth, but he looks forward to the day when medical science can change that:

If a biological basis is found, and if a prenatal test is then developed, and if a successful treatment to reverse the sexual orientation to heterosexual is ever developed, we would support its use as we should unapologetically support the use of any appropriate means to avoid sexual temptation and the inevitable effects of sin . . .

In Dr. Mohler’s “thinking,” homosexuality is God’s punishment—selectively applied—for “original sin.” So he wants to use the sciences of genetic engineering and hormone therapy to repent for the “sin” of the mythical characters Adam and Eve. Does any of that make any sense at all? Moreover, Biblical literalists and dogmatic fundamentalists have repeatedly argued against any pre-natal meddling with a fetus, claiming that whatever the fetus was, was its God-given birthright. Funny how that thinking changes so radically when it comes to gay people. Mohler’s “genetic cleansing” proposal is nothing less than a twenty-first century theofascist program of eugenics which, if history serves as a guide, would not be limited to eliminating gays and lesbians. To wit . . .

On May 14, 2009, Mr. Mohler published another article. It was republished “by permission” on May 19, 2009, by American Family Association’s propaganda organ, OneNewsNow: “Should Christians ‘respect’ other religions?” Mohler’s answer:

. . . any belief system that pulls persons away from the Gospel of Christ, denies and subverts Christian truth, and blinds sinners from seeing Christ as the only hope of salvation is, by biblical definition, a way that leads to destruction. Islam, like every other rival to the Christian gospel, takes persons captive and is devoid of genuine hope for salvation.

Thus, evangelical Christians may respect the sincerity with which Muslims hold their beliefs, but we cannot respect the beliefs themselves. . . . we cannot respect a belief system that denies the truth of the gospel, insists that Jesus was not God’s Son, and takes millions of souls captive.

Witness the fundamental problem with dogmatic religion: “we’re right and you’re wrong.” What has happened all too often is bloodshed ad majorem Dei gloriam to determine whose “god” is “God.” While Dr. Mohler’s statement is not a call for a Jihad or an Inquisition, it is a blatantly self-righteous call to see others as “inferiors” and, therefore, worthy of suspicion and discrimination.

And let’s not forget Mr. Mohler’s incestuous “logic”: those parts of the Bible we want to be true are true because we say they are, and what those other people believe isn’t true because we and those “useful” parts of the Bible say they aren’t.

Biblical literalism. Religious Dogma. From Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition:

Dogma n, [L dogmat-, dogma, fr. Gk, from dokein to seem] 1a: something held as an established opinion; esp: a definite authoritative tenet. B: a code of such tenents <pedagogical ~>. C: a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds. 2: a doctrine or body of doctrines concerning faith or morals formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church.

“From dokein to seem . . . established opinion . . . a point of view or tenet put forth as authoritative without adequate grounds . . . formally stated and authoritatively proclaimed by a church” (italics mine). Dogma is the unsubstantiated opinion of someone or some group that must remain as is despite ever-changing social, cultural and political contexts. In other words, dogma is little more than opinion. As one definition in the Oxford English Dictionary puts it, dogma is “an imperious or arrogant declaration of opinion” which uses itself as its source of authority. Human history has documented over and over again that those who claim to KNOW “God’s will” and act dogmatically to enforce “His will” have brought nothing but pain, suffering, and hatred. And they screech doing it. From Tim Wildmon, President of the American Family Association:

Obama’s wicked marriage proposal
May 15, 2012

Dear Friend,

Someone described President Obama’s announcement that he is in favor of homosexual “marriage” as “shaking his fist at God.” I agree. There are many things in politics where good people can disagree or perhaps the Bible does not speak to specifically—but marriage is not one of them. . . .

Professor Helminiak offered a far more scholarly and much less screechy perspective:

As for marriage, again, the Bible is more liberal than we hear today. The Jewish patriarchs had many wives and concubines. David and Jonathan, Ruth and Naomi, and Daniel and the palace master were probably lovers.

The Bible’s Song of Songs is a paean to romantic love with no mention of children or a married couple. Jesus never mentioned same-sex behaviors, although he did heal the “servant”—pais, a Greek term for male love—of the Roman Centurion.

What’s that old expression? “Actions speak louder than words.”

Professor Helminiak also noted that “Paul discouraged marriage because he believed the world would soon end. Still, he encouraged people with sexual needs to marry, and he never linked sex and procreation.” The world did not end, but real world men and women—be they heterosexual or homosexual—have sexual and emotional needs. Many wish to marry and create families.

Daniel Helminiak offered what should be the last word not only on the marriage debate, but the whole debate about treating gay and lesbian Americans respectfully and as equal citizens deserving of equal civil rights:

Were God-given reason to prevail, rather than knee-jerk religion, we would not be having a heated debate over gay marriage. “Liberty and justice for all,” marvel at the diversity of creation, welcome for one another: these, alas, are true biblical values.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

One Response to Exposing religious jingoism and biblical literalism: Part II

  1. I want to to thank you for this good read!! I absolutely loved
    every bit of it. I’ve got you book marked to check out new things you post…