A few days ago, someone on Twitter tweeted the following quote from Jennifer Wright Knust: “”The only way that the Bible can be regarded as straightforward and simple is if no one bothers to read it.” The thing is shot through with verses that don’t fit with the way we see things nowadays. Case in point: from 1830’s until 1865, some people in the southern United States spent a lot of time trying to justify the abhorrent practice of slavery. And, the foundation for this defense rested on the Bible. In the Old Testament, there are several passages about who the Israelites can keep as slaves. Some of Paul’s letters talk about proper treatment of slaves. No where in the Scriptures is the practice of slavery condemned. It was part and parcel of the culture, in the 1st century as well as the 19th, and accepted as part of the natural order. But, as author Eric McKitrick said in his book Slavery Defended, “Nothing is more susceptible than an argument, however ingenious, that has been discredited by events” and I think we can all agree that the events of 1861-65 and after discredited the anti-slavery argument.
Slavery not the only discredited idea from the Old Testament. Throughout the enumeration of the Law, there are many different instructions about how to worship. It tells what animals to sacrifice, how that sacrifice is to be performed, by who and when. There are intricate details about how to prepare yourself to go to the temple and present it. Or, on how to cleanse oneself after committing a sin. As for what was a sin, there were about 615 different laws that spelled that out for you. They also dictated everything else you did, whether spiritual or secular, because to an ancient Israelite, the two were inextricably bound. In the books of Leviticus, Deuteronomy and others, it says the punishment for any many sins was death. Just as we don’t have to go to the temple on feast days and make a burnt offering these days, we also don’t stone women in the town square because they were caught running around on their husband, we let them get a divorce. We don’t execute people for having sex with animals, we get them psychiatric help. We don’t ostracize people who stray from their faith…, well, we do, but not officially. Unless, of course, you’re a Catholic, then all bets are off. The point is that are tons of instructions in the Bible that we don’t follow anymore. Except one, can you guess what it is?
If you said “homosexuality”, you win! That’s right, homosexuality, the Queen Mother of All Sins, is one of the few sins listed in Leviticus that still carries the same weight it did two or three thousand years ago. In some churches, you can go and kill someone and be hailed as a hero. But, love someone of the same sex and you deserve to roast in the everlasting fires of Hell. For some folks, following Jesus’ instructions and showing love to the LGBT community is the same as being one. Which is a distinctly unChristian attitude. If we’re going to be the church in this new post-modern world, we’re need to go back and fix the places where we got it oh-so-wrong. We have what we’re always offering the rest of the world: a second chance. Let’s not blow it.