Friday, June 17, 2016

Leviticus Chapter and Verse

In the wake of the Orlando Massacre, I heard incredible hate rhetoric citing Leviticus. One “pundit preacher” went so far as to say the only tragedy is that more gays weren't killed. This comes from a 21st Century American stuck in 2100 B.C. I don't know how old the texts of Leviticus are, but they came out of a much older society with a very harsh impression of a very harsh God, According to Leviticus, Chapter 20, “Penalties for Various Sins,” Verse 13, homosexual acts are a capital crime, that is, punishable by death. It's the verse the pundit preachers like to quote as justification for their venom. It is the word of God, after all. But if you're going all Old Testament in your condemnations, you can't just pick and choose. There is an extensive list of capital crimes, verses 9 through 21. Your life is forfeit for cursing your parents; for sleeping with your father's wife; for committing adultery of any kind; marrying both a woman and her mother; sleeping with your daughter-in-law; for having sex with animals; and for telling fortunes. Generously, death applies to all parties involved, even the poor unsuspecting critters. So if you line up all the active LGBT community against the wall, you have to add everyone who's ever done any of the other things on the list. Since adultery is a seeming constant among our political leaders, at least half would have to go up against the wall...not to mention anyone who ever filled out a horoscope or read a palm. And make room for the fundamentalist, family values spouting preachers who have admitted their own adultery. It's going to have to be a big wall. Verse 21 declares that if you marry your brother's widow you shall be childless. That one started a whole new religion. I think the things on the list mostly have been decriminalized in modern society. Divorce court may thrive on them as grounds (especially sooth-saying), but stoning and burning are more or less frowned upon in most Western circles. Interestingly, the same firey language repeated throughout the Old Testament has this to say about immigrants: (Exodus 23.9) “You shall not molest or oppress an alien, for you were once aliens yourselves, in the land of Egypt.” It begs the question, just exactly how much of the Old Testament do we pick and choose for our arguments? Do we take only the parts that support our opinion, and omit the parts that might call our very integrity into question? I suppose we can get all New Testament here, perhaps in a combo-pack with the Ten Commandments: let (s)he who is without sin cast the first stone, and Thou Shalt Not Kill. One came from the mouth of Jesus and the other from the Big Fella Himself. The Commandments reinforce most of Leviticus, specifying in particular not to commit adultery, but none of the Commandments is directly about homosexuality, or about immigrants (aliens, foreigners). Maybe those two were on the third tablet, the one Moses dropped climbing down from the mountain. Words are easy to twist around to fit any argument. Perhaps we do not even need to go back to the Old Testament in a purely literal fashion. After all, they came from an old civilization catering to the needs and expectations of the time. Times change, knowledge grows, opinions evolve. A new testament emerged, itself now over 2,000 years old. The Koran is younger still, but dates back 1,500 years. Humans interpreting things much bigger than themselves have made assumptions and mistakes again and again. Maybe the time is coming for another Way to reveal itself, But, in the meantime, this phrase sounds pretty clear to me: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Some people like to build walls. I think they're dangerous – both the walls and their wannabe builders.

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