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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Media Publishes Factual Errors, Misconceptions About Homosexuality

Reprinted by permission of The Christian Post

By Lillian Kwon
Christian Post Reporter
Tue, Dec. 09 2008 03:35 PM EST

In the aftermath of the passage of California's Proposition 8, Newsweek and Hollywood are the latest players to launch their attacks on traditional marriage supporters and the biblical case against homosexuality.

And Christians are taking issue with the misconceptions, factual errors and holes in the arguments being presented in popular public spheres.

"It doesn’t surprise me. Newsweek has been so far in the tank on the homosexual issue, for so long, they need scuba gear and breathing apparatus," said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, according to Politico. "I don’t think it’s going to change the minds of anyone who takes biblical teachings seriously."

Land's comments were directed at Newsweek's current cover story, "The Religious Case for Gay Marriage," written by religion editor Lisa Miller. In the story, Miller says "examples of 'the traditional family' are scarcely to be found" in the Old Testament and that the Bible does not explicitly define marriage as between one man and one woman. She further argues that the modern married couple would not look to the Bible as a guide while citing polygamy in the Old Testament.

"Religious objections to gay marriage are rooted not in the Bible at all, then, but in custom and tradition," Miller writes. "The Bible was written for a world so unlike our own, it’s impossible to apply its rules, at face value, to ours."

Rejecting Miller's arguments, Land said the Bible clearly prescribes marriage as heterosexual, citing passages in Genesis, where God pairs Adam and Eve, and Ephesians (in the New Testament) when the apostle Paul compares the relationship between husband and wife to the relationship between Jesus and the Church, according to Politico.

Newsweek's story reflects the confusion that many people have regarding Scripture and homosexuality.

And the media isn't the only one to blame for it.

"Part of that [confusion] is skillful misrepresentation, and part of it is the failure of the church to faithfully and diligently promote biblical apologetics and exegesis," according to Bob Stith, who heads the Ministry to Homosexuals Task Force in the Southern Baptist Convention.

The confusion is also played out in the Funny Or Die video, "Prop 8 – The Musical," which was posted last week. In it, popular celebrities, including Neil Patrick Harris and Jack Black, weigh in on the amendment that defines marriage as between one man and one woman. The musical accuses Christians of picking and choosing Bible verses to make their case against gay marriage and mocks them as hatemongers.

"Leviticus says shellfish is an abomination," Black, who portrays Jesus in the musical, states in the musical as he responds to the Christians' argument that the Bible says homosexuality is an abomination. "The Bible says a lot of interesting things like you can stone your wife or sell your daughter into slavery."

"Well we ignore those verses," says John C. Reilly, who plays a Christian.

"It seems to me you pick and choose. Well please choose love instead of hate," Black sings.

Randy Thomas, vice president of Exodus International, responded saying the musical showed a "sincere misunderstanding of Scripture."

Tim Wilkins, a former homosexual who heads Cross Ministry, argued that gay marriage supporters "are doing the very thing they accuse Christians of."

"They focus on Leviticus and ignore New Testament passages that forbid homosexuality. WHY? Because Leviticus provides easier arguments with its prohibitions against certain foods."

SBC's Stith also denounced Hollywood's attempt to make biblical arguments. "Anyone who cares to spend thirty minutes of serious study would see the many flaws in Black’s argument," he said.

Clearing up some of the confusion, Stith called it a "factual error" to claim that Scripture nowhere says homosexuals are an abomination.

"In the same passage in Leviticus that speaks about homosexuality the Bible also warns against incest, bestiality, and adultery," he said. Also, "while the New Testament doesn’t mention shellfish (and some would argue that Acts 10 clears that argument up) it clearly continues the biblical prohibition on homosexual acts."

Additionally, "Nowhere in the entire canon of Scripture are homosexual relationships ever spoken of approvingly," Stith continued. "The Bible is clear that God created us as sexual beings. But it is also clear that He provided us boundaries and guidelines for the use of that wonderful gift."

Addressing a more sensitive topic, Stith sees the label "hate" being used in ignorance or willful malice against those who simply disagree.

"On several occasions, sometimes with tears in my own eyes, I’ve said to people about actions in which they were involved, 'You know, this isn’t God’s best for you. He has something better if you’re willing to walk in obedience.' Does this make me a 'hater' or does it mean that I care about that person and genuinely believe that God knows what He’s talking about?" Stith posed.

But again, Christians aren't entirely blame-free in this gay marriage debate – which Newsweek's Miller believes is a full-scale war now.

"Unfortunately, we live in an age of sound bites and slogans. It should challenge us as Christians to be much more diligent not to settle for the same thing," Stith said. "We do that when we trot out the same tired arguments against homosexuality without acknowledging that we unnecessarily wound people by the way we use those arguments. We don’t acknowledge the real pain felt by many in the homosexual community. And honestly, we often slip into a trap of 'us vs. them.'"

"We must evaluate whether our arguments are based in our love for God as well as for all people. Do we speak against homosexual acts because we genuinely care; because we genuinely believe that sin – any sin – brings pleasure for a season but ultimately hinders the fullness that God wants all of us to enjoy?"

Copyright 2008 The Christian Post. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


Braden said...

Let's look at marriage in a 'traditional' marriage in a Biblical sense-

Deut 22:19
"They shall fine him a hundred shekels of silver and give them to the girl's father, because this man has given an Israelite virgin a bad name. She shall continue to be his wife; he must not divorce her as long as he lives."
Should divorce be illegal in the United States?

Deut 22:20-21
"If, however, the charge is true and no proof of the girl's virginity can be found, she shall be brought to the door of her father's house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death."
Should we murder our wives if they are not virgins?

Timothy 2:11-14
"A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve."
Should women be able to teach or have authority over a man?

1 Corinthians 14:34-35
"As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church."
Is it shameful for a woman to speak in church, as Paul's letter in the New Testament says?

My point is that unless you believe someone's wife should not be allowed to speak in church, you are not taking the entire Bible literally. So you are picking and choosing which verses are literal and which ones are not.

Do some verses say homosexuality is a sin? Yes. But so is working on the Sabbath. We are already picking and choosing which verses to follow, so it is unfair for us to tell other people which verses they should pick to follow.

Unless you can demonstrate to me that these verses really don't mean what they say, or that you actually believe all of them, you are interpretting the Bible and imposing your interpretation on other peoples' interpretations, which may be different.

Bob Ellis said...

Braden, do you look through the Bible (or on God-hating liberal websites) for excuses not to believe what God said? It sure looks like it.

You asked: "Should divorce be illegal in the United States?" Except for unfaithfulness and extreme situations such as violence, substance abuse, etc., yes, it should be. In fact, there were few grounds upon which to get a divorce in the United States until the despicable "no fault divorce" came along in the 1960s. If you take a vow (whether at marriage or another time), that vow should be kept. Especially so with marriage. God points to marriage as an example of the relationship Christ has with the Church, and how the Trinity in general works. All of God's creation is supposed to conform to the nature of God. Can you imagine Christ divorcing the Church? Can you imagine the Son divorcing the Father or the Spirit?

You asked: "Should we murder our wives if they are not virgins?" Hopefully a prospective husband and wife would be close enough to one another that such information would be known ahead of time. Regardless, there is a reason God puts such a premium on virginity and purity. As I stated above, marriage is an example or image of divine relationships. Do you think God is okay with having the image of His relationships marred by the slutting around of human beings? God's design for human sexuality was laid out in Genesis: a man and a woman for life. Sex is a wonderful, powerful and mysterious thing, not to be squandered on whoever comes along just because the hormones rage. God expects purity and cleanliness--physical, emotional, spiritual--and approves of no exceptions. Such a requirement and penalty would have proven a powerful incentive to remain pure, and for parents to safeguard the purity of their children. As to the penalty, more on that in a moment.

You asked: "Should women be able to teach or have authority over a man?" I believe and try to obey the Bible, and the Bible is pretty clear on that, which is also why most denominations don't allow women to hold leadership positions in the church. Most people don't believe this prohibition applies to the sphere of politics or vocation, since Paul does seem to be talking about church responsibilities, and we do have examples of female Christian leadership such as Deborah, Dorcas, Phoebe, Euodia, Priscilla, Syntyche and others. You don't have to like this restriction in teaching and church authority, but it's God's idea, so you'll have to take it up with him if you disagree. God did create the male first, and somebody has to have the final say; the world doesn't work well by committee or group hugs.

Specifically as to women speaking in the church, this most likely falls under the same area as the one I just discussed. Speaking could be taken a couple of different ways: speaking publicly as in to teach, or speaking in public under any circumstances. Contextually, it would seem to fit the former. I have also read that in some segments of Greek culture, women were not expected to speak publicly, and for a woman to do so could give indication that she was not a virtuous person. Paul makes it clear in several of his books that we are to be mindful not only of very clear and specific right/wrong issues, but to be careful of giving the wrong impression (e.g. eating meat offered to idols, etc.).

As to the severity of punishments themselves, it seems pretty clear that, just as the new covenant established by Jesus Christ did away with the ritual and dietary requirements of the old Mosaic Law, that the harsh penalties of the old law (which were there to demonstrate God's holiness and how serious he was about our need to be holy as he is holy) no no longer in force. The incident of the woman caught in adultery seems to illustrate that, if nothing else: notice that although she could have been stoned (the fact that the exposure of this incident was engineered by the Pharisees to use against Jesus, and the woman's male partner was nowhere to be found, aside) for adultery, Jesus let her go without the exercise of that penalty. But also notice that Jesus didn't say, "You've done nothing wrong;" he said "Go now and leave your life of sin." Adultery was still wrong, even though Jesus didn't exercise the full penalty of the Old Covenant.

Regarding the Sabbath, working on the Sabbath without a legitimate need is wrong. It was recognized (Luke chapter 13 and 14) that there are some exceptions (in our modern world, ones that would easily qualify include military duty, police, firemen, emergency medical personnel, etc., but they are few. Most pastors I have known, since they "work" on Sunday, usually "sabbath" another day of the week, setting it aside as a day where they clearly do not work at their vocation. In fact, most of the America used to set aside the Sabbath; I remember when I was a child that grocery stores, etc. were not open on Sunday, and you'd be hard-pressed to find a gas station open anywhere in the county. The U.S. Constitution even specifically states that Sunday will not be a legislative day. See, observing the sabbath isn't as alien as it seems to modern liberal ears.

As with all things, context is key. Some passages in the Bible require some study and cultural/historical information in order to understand fully. But the vast, overwhelming number of issues in the Bible are abundantly clear (unless one is desperately looking for an excuse to do something wrong).

And there is no context whatsoever in either Old or New Testaments where marriage is approved of as anything other than between a man and a woman for life, and no context whatsoever in either Old or New Testaments where homosexual behavior is regarded as anything other than a sin and strongly disapproved of by God.

With regard to homosexual behavior and marriage, it's really quite simple. I think I've said this before but it's worth saying again for those who find the obvious hard to understand (or unpleasant to understand).

You can have apple pie in many different ways. You can bake it in a metal pan or a disposable foil pan. You can bake it in the morning, evening, or at midnight. You can bake it at your house, your mom's house, or in a bakery. You can sell it (whole or by the piece), you can auction it, or you can give it away. You can eat the whole thing, a single piece, or none of it. You can have it with whipped cream or without. You can have it with ice cream or without. You can have it at the end of a meal, or at the beginning of a meal, or in the middle of a meal, or as a meal itself. But without apples and a crust, you don't have an apple pie. You don't have what it takes to make an apple pie without apples and a crust. You can't make an apple pie with peaches, pears, mangoes, aardvark lips, shoe leather or spare oboe parts.

You can be married by a preacher, or a JOP, or a ship's captain, or a mayor. You can have a reception after your wedding or not. You can have a dance at your wedding reception, or not. You can have 10,000 guests or just enough witnesses to meet legal requirements. You can get married indoors or outdoors. You can get married whether you're 20 years old or 80 years old. You can get married whether you're rich or whether you're poor. You can get married whether you're ugly or pretty.You can get married feeling great love and affection, or with only mild affection. You can get married during the day or at night. You can get married at 6:00 am, 10:00 pm, or 1:56 pm on a Thursday. You can get married while wearing a hat or not. You can get married in Montana, Florida, Mongolia or anywhere else. You can get married in winter or summer. You can get married in a white dress or blue jeans. You can get married with the bride's father's permission or without. You can get married with the bride's parents paying for the shebang, or you can pay for it all yourself. You can get married wearing shoes or barefooted. You can have a honeymoon or not. But without a man and a woman, you don't have a marriage..

You can't bake an apple pie without apples and crust, and you can't make a marriage without a man and a woman.

You may have sex. You may have affection. You may even have love and commitment. But without a man and a woman, it ain't marriage. Call it "commitment," call it "wonderful bliss," or call it "Goose Feather Daiquiri," but it isn't marriage.

It takes a man and a woman to make marriage. Calling any other combination of elements "marriage" is counterfeiting the genuine article and it devalues it.

Marriage is far, far, far too important (and sacred) to allow it to be counterfeited and devalued.

Braden said...

“Braden, do you look through the Bible (or on God-hating liberal websites) for excuses not to believe what God said?”

I think this begs an important question. You would say that God is absolute good, absolute love would you not? There are many verses throughout the Bible which say that God is a force for absolute good, and his counterpart, the Devil, is a force for absolute evil. The Bible also states that God is unchanging. So what really eats at me is why God is portrayed as such a vengeful, genocidal, maniac in the Old Testament, if he is a force for absolute good.

I think in order to answer this question we have to answer another one. Is something good or evil because God says it is? Or does God support things or not support them BECAUSE they are good or evil? I’m sure you’re aware that the Old Testament condones slavery numerous times. If you believe these verses were divinely inspired, then God must have condoned slavery. But did that mean slavery was once good and not evil? No. Slavery is evil, regardless of who condones or supports it.

This leaves you with a choice: either A) the verses condoning slavery were not divinely inspired, because God is good. or B) the verses were condoning slavery, and God is not absolute good, but is a mix of good and evil. Do you follow? Slavery is evil, therefore if God even once supported it, it must mean He is not absolute good, for He has once supported evil, but is rather just mostly good. There are many more examples: Is killing the firstborn of an empire OK because their unelected leader made a bad decision? Is instructing the Israelites to rip open their enemies’ pregnant women and bash their babies’ heads against rocks OK (Hosea 13:16)? No. They are both disgusting and vile acts.

Now you may disagree, but here is my conclusion. God is omnipotent, He knows everything that ever has or ever will happen. Someone like that does not change, for change implies you did not know something. Someone who is omnipotent knows the difference between good and evil. Someone who is omnipotent will choose good over evil every time, because choosing evil implies a quest for power, which is unneeded for the all-powerful. So this demonstrates that God is all-powerful, unchanging, and absolute good. This means all the verses condoning evil in the Old Testament are NOT divinely inspired. For if they are, God is neither all-powerful, unchanging, nor good. But because we are here, because He created the universe, he must be all-powerful, which means he must be unchanging and good as well.

This means the Bible contains some verses which are not divinely inspired. This in important when we get to the New Testament. Try to reconcile these two statements:

Matthew 10:34
"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword"

Luke 6:27-36
"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back.”

You cannot reconcile these. One is true, the other is false. You cannot advocate violence over peace, and then tell people to love your enemies and do good to those who hate you. So which one is false? Christians believe Jesus was not divinely inspired, but was divine himself. So all the things that apply to God, apply to him as well. Jesus was absolute good, therefore he would never support violence over peace. This means Matthew 10:34 either didn’t come from Jesus, or he meant that his arrival would bring violence to his followers, which was absolutely true.

I know you probably don’t agree with me. But just please follow why I can’t support a ban on gay marriage. I’ve shown you how I believe the Bible contains verses that are either non-literal or non-divinely inspired. So how do you know which ones to follow? I don’t know. I guess you have to look at the verses which most likely are divinely inspired. Was Paul’s letter to the Corinthians divinely inspired? I don’t know. Was Jesus? Absolutely. This means I follow what Jesus said, first. Jesus taught us, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The Golden Rule: applicable to everything in life.

I did not choose to be straight, I just am. Therefore I reason that gay people do not choose to be gay. If I lived in a country that was predominately gay, I would not want them to tell me who I can and cannot marry. I would not want them to pass a law telling me I could not marry a woman I love. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience, support doing the same thing to them. Do to others what you would want them to do to you. If I murdered someone, I would want to be thrown in jail, so I support doing that to murderers. I would not want to be told who I can marry, so I cannot tell others who they can marry. My conscience and my faith in the teachings of Jesus simply will not allow it.

Your faith is probably different, but I cannot support banning gay marriage. Do unto others what you would have them do unto you: so simple, yet so profound, obviously divinely inspired. I cannot violate that.

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