Recently there's been a lot of talk about homosexuality -- the Boy Scouts are banning men from leadership positions who happen to have a homosexual orientation, and the issue of hate crimes legislation to protect homosexuals has somehow become part of the ongoing discussion about whether Christians should take "moral stands" against homosexuality.
To both of those camps, I offer these questions.
What happens to the Boy Scouts who are aware, or are becoming aware, that they are just like the men who are now being banned from these leadership positions? Boy Scouts who understand exactly what they are being told by the Cub masters and Scout masters -- that they should be ashamed of who they are at the very core of their being. Where are the men in leadership positions who can model for these boys that men who have a homosexual orientation can be as boundaried, loving, respectful and nurturing as men with a heterosexual orientation?
Or has our capacity as loving adults become secondary to how we use body parts in the privacy of our intimate relationships? And is nurturing shame into young boys more important than teaching boys how to love themselves for who they are? And to respect each other's differences? In reality every man can have healthy boundaries with young boys and it has nothing to do with sexual orientation. Would this not be the more honest message?
To those who purport to support hate crime legislation while at the same time supporting "Christian moral stands" against people who happen to be homosexual: From where do such supporters think the need for hate crime legislation originates?
I heard a minister once say, "The real issue isn't homosexuality, but prejudice. Prejudice happens when ignorance and fear go dancing together. Prejudice not confronted turns into bigotry." Intolerance, civil and spiritual, has deep roots in our faith and in our psyches.
From my perspective there are two kinds of Christians -- those who interpret the Bible literally and those who consider context, culture, language translations, etc. The problem I have is not with interpreting scripture literally, but with those who are selectively literal in their interpretation.
For centuries the Christian Bible has been used to justify the oppression and genocide of the Jewish people, as well as the oppression and submission of women. In this country alone it was used to justify enslaving black Americans -- in Ephesians 6:5-8, Paul himself tells slaves to obey their masters, while Exodus 21:7 allows you to sell your daughter into slavery.
The Christians who protest gay pride are the same people who protested the abolition of slavery and civil rights for blacks, and who still believe women should be submissive to their husbands. They have just been transported in time and are still using scripture in a selectively literal fashion to justify their prejudices and fears.
Many don't feel there is anything problematic in scripture, but here is just one example. According to Leviticus 20:2-5, it is a capital crime to sacrifice your child to the god Molech. The Lord made it very clear to Moses that anyone doing so should be stoned to death. Yet isn't this the same Lord who previously, in Genesis 22:1-2, asked Abraham to sacrifice his son Issac as a burnt offering to Him, as a test of Abraham's faith and his fear of Him?
Am I missing something? Murdering your child is a sin when that child is sacrificed to a false god, but it is not only not a sin, but praiseworthy when sacrificing your child to the True God?
So what changed? Did the Bible change? Or did we grow as human beings and make decisions for ourselves when interpretation became contradictory and problematic -- decisions informed by what we've learned from the sciences; decisions about what is human and what is not, what is loving and what is not, and what is Christian and what is not.
So if we need a list of sins from scripture to determine our moral compass and how we treat others, just exactly what sins should we be talking about? And whose?
Literally speaking, homosexuality is an abomination as God tells us in Leviticus 18:22. But earlier, in Leviticus 11:10, God also says eating shellfish is an abomination.
Would anyone care to join me in religious protest outside Red Lobster? Perhaps at least one soul can be saved, certainly one lobster, and it seems it would be far easier to change someone's shellfish orientation than their sexual orientation.
Catherine Beckman has a degree in theology and resides in Colorado Springs.