Irregular Times: Biblical Illiteralism

Reading my local paper, the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the other day, I ran into an interesting letter to the editor. To give you a smidgen of background, the University of Arizona has a free speech area where a lot of mall preachers and the Campus Crusade for Christ spend their time trying to convert others. This has led to a debate over the place of religion in our daily lives. Part of that debate was related to the possibility of ministers marrying same-sex couples.

Bernardo Velasco, an Environmental Science senior at the U, wrote his letter to criticize clergy who marry gays and lesbians. If you'd like to read the entire letter for yourself, click here. Right now, let's just focus on the part where Velasco gets down to the nitty-gritty:

As Christians, we get our belief system directly from God, as it is found in his word, the Holy Bible. Therefore, we humans cannot select which of God's laws are just and which are not. As a believer in God and Jesus Christ, I must (and do) accept every single word contained in the Bible. The same goes for anyone who claims to be Christian. I must accept it as either entirely true and the word of God, or not at all!

Therefore, no Christian church can justify performing same-sex marriages because, God and the Bible have spoken against it.

Velasco should be admired for getting right to the point of the matter. He makes an argument based on biblical literalism, the belief that "every single word contained in the Bible" is "true and the word of God". As Velasco points out, it follows from biblical literalism that any prescriptions for proper conduct contained in the Bible must be interpreted as a just law of God.

Velasco is at least consistent when he concludes that as a Christian he must reject same-sex marriage as a violation of God's law. What Velasco doesn't do is examine the ramifications of his beliefs. If Velasco must follow all of God's laws as written in the Bible, what else should he be doing in his life?

Let's start with Leviticus, the book in which God speaks to Moses and in which homosexuality is mentioned:

Leviticus 18:22 Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.

Leviticus 1:2 If any man of you bring an offering unto the LORD, ye shall bring your offering of the cattle, even of the herd, and of the flock.

Leviticus 3:17 It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.

Leviticus 11:6-7 And the hare, because he cheweth the cud, but divideth not the hoof; he is unclean unto you. And the swine, though he divide the hoof, and be clovenfooted, yet he cheweth not the cud; he is unclean to you.

Leviticus 11:12 Whatsoever hath no fins nor scales in the waters, that shall be an abomination unto you.

Leviticus 19:27-28 Ye shall not round the corners of your heads, neither shalt thou mar the corners of thy beard. Ye shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.

Leviticus 25:3-4 Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather in the fruit thereof; But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field, nor prune thy vineyard.

Leviticus 4:27-29 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the LORD concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge: then he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And he shall lay his hand upon the head of the sin offering, and slay the sin offering in the place of the burnt offering.

So let's get this straight...
Things to do:Offer cattle to God, stop all agricultural efforts every seven years.
Things not to do:Eat fat, drink blood, eat pigs, eat rabbits, eat seaweed or shrimp or crabs or lobster, cut the hair on the sides of your head, trim your beard, get a tattoo.
Way to absolve sin:Kill a goat.
Is this the way Velasco lives his life? What about the rest of us? If not, why isn't he spending his time condemning, say, Red Lobster?

Moving on strictly from Leviticus, one especially prominent act forbidden by the Bible is USURY, the collection of interest on money lent to others. Don't believe me? Check out these quotes:

Leviticus 25: 35-36
And if thy brother be waxen poor, and fallen in decay with thee; then thou shalt relieve him: yea, though he be a stranger, or a sojourner; that he may live with thee. Take thou no usury of him, or increase: but fear thy God; that thy brother may live with thee. Thou shalt not give him thy money upon usury, nor lend him thy victuals for increase.

Ezekiel 18:5-8
But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right... And hath not oppressed any, but hath restored to the debtor his pledge, hath spoiled none by violence, hath given his bread to the hungry, and hath covered the naked with a garment; He that hath not given forth upon usury, neither hath taken any increase, that hath withdrawn his hand from iniquity, hath executed true judgment between man and man, hath walked in my statutes, and hath kept my judgments, to deal truly; he is just, he sh all surely live, saith the Lord GOD.

Exodus 22: 25
If thou lend money to any of my people that is poor by thee, thou shalt not be to him as an usurer, neither shalt thou lay upon him usury.

Deuteronomy 23:19
Thou shalt not lend upon usury to thy brother; usury of money, usury of victuals, usury of any thing that is lent upon usury.

Matthew 21: 12-13
And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, and said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

We could go on here, but I think you get the point: God sure doesn't like usury. Bad! Sin! Now, homosexuality is obviously a prevalent enough sin to seriously worry conservative Christians. If you include bisexuals, 10 to 20 percent of the population suffice as sinners. What about usury? It's safe to say well over half the American population either receives interest payments from others or makes interest payments to others. We are a society plagued by USURY! Isn't this something to worry about? Does Velasco own a bank account? Does he have a credit card? Does his Church have either? Why isn't Velasco upset about this?

On to the next sin - the fraternization of men with menstruating women! Read on…

Ezekiel 18:3-9
As I live, saith the Lord GOD, ye shall not have occasion any more to use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die. But if a man be just, and do that which is lawful and right, And hath not eaten upon the mountains…neither hath come near to a menstruous woman…he is just, he shall surely live, saith the Lord GOD.

Now, my wife just said, "What a bunch of male bullshit! Why should women be ostracized just because they bleed -- especially when they're the ones bearing all the kids anyway...". I tend to agree, but again, let's stick to the point and take Velasco at his word that this text is the literal word of God. How often does Velasco find himself near a menstruating woman -- maybe even in Church? Has Velasco complained about what surely is a widespread phenomenon? If not, why not?

But let's continue…did you notice that bit in the last piece about not eating on mountains? I happen to know that there's a little town near the University of Arizona called Summerhaven. It's a cute little place on top of Mount Lemmon (in the Santa Catalina Mountains) where Tucsonans go to hike, see the bears, and…eat pie! This is no secret. Worse yet, I know of Church groups that send children up onto that same mountain to camp, talk about Jesus, and…yes, eat S'mores and Gorp! What a den of iniquity! Why hasn't Velasco complained about this clear violation of the just word of Almighty God?

We could go on and on, but let's deal with just one more sin, women who don't wear hats:

1 Corinthians, chapter 11
every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head.

Well, that's pretty clear - if you're gonna pray and you're a woman, you gotta wear a hat. Why isn't Velasco going around handing out hats in Church?

Unless I'm wrong and Velasco is ripping up his bank card, writing letters about the evil of eating on mountains and handing out hats in Church, he and others like him who use Biblical literalism to condemn homosexuality aren't really Biblical literalists. Instead, they're uncomfortable with gays, lesbians and the like and use the Bible to prop up their discomfort. When the Bible isn't convenient, they conveniently forget.

Sheesh…if you're going to piously condemn others based on your religion, you gotta at least be consistent. If Mr. Velasco is reading this, he should feel free to inform us about his plan for hat distribution. Then again, maybe he'd be better advised to remove that ten-gallon Stetson from his eye before condemning people whose only aim is to publicly commit to loving one another. I think there's something in the Bible about that, too.

New! Irregular Jonathan and Bernie Velasco met and talked -- what happened?

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