Saturday, March 16, 2013

Defusing the Weapon: Context is Everything

An interesting thing happened this week, and I figured this would be a good place to post and share. Unless you either haven't been paying attention, or just don't care about social politics, you've probably heard about how conservative Republican Rob Portman from Ohio has flipped his views on marriage.

Click me, I link to a New York Times article
Portman has a son who recently came out to his parents. Knowing who his father is, and his stance on certain socially conservative platforms, this act in itself must have been difficult. However, showing his true character, Portman accepted his son, and revised his belief system. It is a little shameful that the issue had to hit so close to home for Portman to shift his platform, but he ought to be commended for revisiting an issue and reforming his opinion based on personal experience, rather than through political soundbytes, and platforms. Another GOP pal of his, Dick Cheney, sent his regards, by the way, which I also thought was interesting, as Cheney has also dealt with the political nature of marriage equality.

I saw this as reported on CNN, and of course, in order to seem fair and balanced, they interviewed Newt Gingrich on what he thought about it, and of course, he did his best to make this whole thing seem unimportant. His reason was basically, no matter what anyone's personal views were about who is allowed to marry whom, marriage will always be a religious definition, and politics wont change it. But, I'm pretty sure politics helped make this whole thing an issue to start with.

This brings me to another thing I wanted to share. I found this doo-dad on the internet today.

The Leviticus chapter and verse is often used as an argument against marriage equality, claiming that, due to this passage in the Old Testament pertaining to one of the 613 commandments of Jewish law, marriage was meant to be between a man and a woman. I won't even go into the theological implications of Christians using old Jewish law to prove dogmatic points, or the fact that there are only certain sects of Judaism that even follow most of these 613 commandments.

What I will do, is clarify this argument better. William's argument, and point is this... if man lies with another man as he does with a woman, then that man is acknowledging that men and women are equals and deserve equal treatment. Since the rest of Leviticus makes several claims that men and women are not equal, and women are subjective to men in a variety of ways, treating another man like he is a woman would not only be disrespectful in the biggest way to the man, but would also undermine all of these other commandments that establish this patriarchal system.

Things that the religious right and hard line conservative Christians say to back up policies of anti-gay sentiment often lead me to think about a pretty famous Canadian evangelical preacher. Charles Templeton left the ministry in 1957 after 20 years as a devoted and moving evangelical preacher. Templeton had been studying scripture at Princeton at the time, and denounced the faith abruptly.

Many many years later, Lee Strobel interviewed Templeton, and although Templeton had been a self imposed recluse and a staunch atheist, when asked about Jesus Christ, Templeton had this to say:

"He is the most important thing in my life... I adore him.  Everything good I know, everything decent I know, everything pure I know, I learned from Jesus".

There is more about that interview here. What I take from this, is not an example of Christianity "winning" one against atheists, but rather, an example of how the religion has moved so far from it's original intent, purpose, mission. Clearly, Templeton did not privately denounce his spirituality, but rather turned away from this religious propaganda machine that he helped make strong. Mr. Portman, like Templeton, discovered that sometimes those things we learn from Jesus: compassion, love, ethics, are far more important than politics, social agendas, and phobias. Jesus had, in effect, undermined the old Judaic system, which is something that the conservative right have been clinging to, regardless, ever since.

The best part of William's post is the last line when he states, "the bible is used as a weapon". The best way to stop this is to be educated about what the text is actually saying, and to whom it is actually speaking. What would Jesus do, indeed? God, and the people at the time had specific reasons for commandments, and it is irresponsible to not take those factors into account when attempting to use certain passages as a basis for oppression.

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