photography by D. Plasman
I walked with 3,000 people in the Traverse City (MI) Gay Pride Parade yesterday. Along the parade route, I was reminded again how some religious people, intent on excluding LGBT persons from full inclusion in churches, begin their defense with lead-ins like: “The Bible says . . .” and “The Word of God is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow” and “Scripture is infallible and inerrant.”
Over the years, I’ve had innumerable conversations with laypersons and clergy who seek to bolster their anti-LGBT position by quoting some of the half dozen, or so, scripture passages that seemingly support their stance. Eventually, I come to the point in these discussions when I introduce the topic of human slavery. Standing in the batter’s box, they’re expecting a fastball, but a slow curve is far more disarming. The four questions I pitch come in this order.
#1 – How many slaves do you own? The question is a conversation changer. The blank stares linger. If no answer is forthcoming, I try to be less a jerk and say, “OK, I’ll assume you don’t own any slaves, and that’s probably a good thing; I’m still rehabbing a house, and I wouldn’t mind a few.”
#2 – Do you know that the Bible approves of human slavery? Most people don’t get this when they first hear it, that’s when I remind them that a dozen books in the Old and New Testaments speak about slavery as if it were as natural to our existence as Google and Facebook – more than 30 passages (50+ verses!). That’s usually when the Bible-believing person I’m talking with reminds me that surely God did not approve of slavery but merely permitted it. Nice try, I think. Thus my next question.
#3 – Do you know that God ordained laws that perpetuated the practice of slavery? The first thing God did after issuing the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20) was to make it possible for a Hebrew slave owner to keep the children of a female Hebrew slave when she received her freedom. It’s there in Ex 21:2-4. And that’s nothing compared to the God-ordained laws allowing Hebrew slave owners to bequeath non-Hebrew slaves to their children as an inheritance (Lev. 25:46) much like parents pass on cottages, diamond rings, and sterling silver candle sticks to their heirs. Thus says the Lord!
#4 – In light of all this, why do you assume that supposed biblical condemnations of a man being with a man and a woman being with a woman are anymore valid today than the continuation of slavery? The answer I most often hear (you can probably guess it) is: “Because the Bible says so.” Biblical recycling in its most ignorant form! That’s when I scrape together whatever Christ-like virtue resides in me and reply, “Look, you can be a biblical ass if you want, you just don’t have eyes to see or the heart to embrace God’s rainbow of justice.”
I wish I were more loving. It’s just too hard!