I live in the middle of the Bible belt where people who call themselves “Christians” are prone to use their religious beliefs to justify their prejudices. This is not surprising since like radical Muslims and other far right conservatives, they also often try to incorporate their religious morality into state law. Sometimes in order to get their attention you have to beat them at their own game. This article was originally published in January of 2014 and is republished here at the end of 2015 because it is one of my favorites from the past.
Recently I read several readers’ opinion pieces in our local newspaper which attempted explain their bigoted views on homosexuality. One in particular provided several quotes from scripture to bolster her argument that “the gay lifestyle is not consistent with Christian teachings”. Now this person was no biblical scholar – in her piece she stated that Jesus (not John) wrote the book of Revelations – but in a larger context I firmly believe we need to be very careful about using quotes from scripture in sociological arguments.
It is said with some justification that one can find something in the Bible to justify almost any position. In Mathew 4.1-11, when Satan was tempting Jesus in the desert, did the devil not quote scripture to his own ends, and Jesus called him on it. Today no one would argue that slavery is justified by the Bible, but when slave owners were battling with abolitionist to defend the institution of slavery they used the following quotes from the Bible to justify their positions: “slaves obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling” (Ephesians 6.5) and ‘tell slaves to be submissive to their masters and give satisfaction in every respect” (Titus 2.9).
I am old enough to remember that when segregationists were fighting their losing battle against integration they also used references to the Bible to justify their cause. Perhaps thirty years from now Christian teachings will be reinterpreted to once again support the equality and rights of yet another oppressed minority.