As I write this, many of us are making Thanksgiving plans. We might be getting ready to see members of our extended family who are…well…difficult. Picture the scene at tables around the country of extended families with grandparents, aunts and uncles and the rest joining in thanksgiving prayer, and then…
And then, looking up across the table at the grandson who came out of the closet on national coming out day in October. Or the niece who has just started testosterone injections as he continues his journey into the body and self which match who he really is. And everyone around the table knows about the college age daughter who couldn’t make it for dinner because she’s spending the holiday with her same sex partner’s family.
From there on, I can imagine the conversation becoming difficult. And part of that difficulty might have to do with the Bible.
If you read my last post, you’ll remember that it mentioned two of the “poison verses” in the book of Leviticus, in which, it seems, homosexuality is condemned as abhorrent to God. Of course, taken in context, the verses have little or nothing to do with same sex attraction as we understand it today, and those who claim it does are merely cherry picking to justify their bigotry.
With this in mind, it might seem that the best way to respond when Uncle Harold or Grandma Sophie quote Leviticus is to say that the whole Bible is ridiculous, and we should dump it into the trash heap of history. Or if not the whole Bible, at least books like Leviticus.
That, of course, might work to stop or at least derail the conversation. “So, how about those Astros winning the Series?” If we’re lucky, we might avoid the topic, until next time.
I think we can try something else. And it begins with a look at some of the good parts of Leviticus. (Yes, there are good parts.) Consider the following, which is sandwiched in the chapter between the two poison verses:
“When you harvest your land’s produce, you must not harvest all the way to the edge of your field; and don’t gather up every remaining bit of your harvest. Also do not pick your vineyard clean or gather up all the grapes that have fallen there. Leave these items for the poor and the immigrant; I am the Lord your God.” (Leviticus 19:9-10)
This tells us that when we harvest earth’s bounty, it is important to make sure that the poor and the immigrants also benefit. A much more appropriate part of the Bible to bring up than the poison verses. Can you imagine what would happen if our national policymakers took these verses as seriously as they do the two poison verses about homosexuality?
A little farther in the same chapter: “You must not oppress your neighbors or rob them. Do not withhold a laborer’s pay overnight. You must not insult a deaf person or put some obstacle in front of a blind person that would cause them to trip… You must not act unjustly in a legal case. Do not show favoritism to the poor or deference to the great; you must judge your fellow Israelites fairly. Do not go around slandering your people. Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed; I am the Lord.” (Leviticus 19:13-16) And, of course, the well known “you must love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18)
At the end of my last post, I suggested that we ask our homophobic, Leviticus-quoting friends how they single out two verses of the book, and ignore the rest. And it suggests a way to talk to Uncle Harold on Thanksgiving.
Perhaps there is a way to talk to Uncle Harold that doesn’t dismiss the book he believes is the center of his faith. Maybe there is a way to talk to Bible believing Christians which doesn’t end the conversation, but invites them to consider the ways in which we do make choices about which parts of the Bible we embrace, and which parts we overlook. That might not convince anyone to change their mind about homosexuality–but maybe it could help to make it more difficult to use Bible verses as weapons.
I wish it were possible to remove the Bible from all discussions about homosexuality, since it is nearly always used in harmful and misleading ways. But the Christian scriptures have been so deeply imbedded in our cultural DNA that many people in the US simply won’t let it go, and will go on using the Bible to condemn those with non binary sexuality unless we provide a better way.
That’s it for now. Stay tuned.