Saturday, 11 June 2011

Some comments following Xarabank's homophobia feature

The Bible is a thick book and it contains verses to support and oppose any position you care to choose. Slavery? It's accepted - even in the new testament - as well as condemned (especially when the Hebrews were the slaves). There are verses about forgiveness and love, as well as violence and destruction.

Gaydar Gordon is good at selecting verses he likes at times while also insisting he agrees with it from cover to cover, insisting on context (and then inventing the context himself). He uses the Bible as a weapon and as a lure.

The Bible is not a source of morality. WE are the source of our own morality and then some people select verses from the Bible (or Koran, or other scriptures) to support that position and give it legitimacy. Perhaps one of the most glaring examples of this is shown in the film The Ten Commandments. The director was a devout man, but clearly he was not happy with the bit where "God hardened Pharaoh's heart" repeatedly and then punished the people of Egypt for it. So he invented a character that's nowhere in the Bible - "Nefertiri", a woman who hardened Pharaoh's heart instead because of her jealousy and malice. Essentially, although he might not have seen it this way, he judged the Bible based on his own sense of justice - and found it lacking.

The Bible in English and Maltese has lots of verses about homosexuality, although many of these references are not to be found in the original ancient Greek texts. There are no references to lesbianism anywhere, and the only clear condemnations of male-male sex are found in the same part of the Bible that also condemns eating pork, wearing mixed fibres, planting different crops in the same field, and so on - things that are no longer followed by modern, mainstream Christians (including Gordon's). No reasonable explanation is given as to why the verses condemning homosexual sex should remain "valid" while the verses that prohibit eating octopus or oysters are not, or why it's now ok to plant two crops in the same field. Jesus never spoke a word against or about homosexuals, although he spent quite a bit of time talking about judgemental people.

Of course some "famous" verses that are used against homosexuality are rejected by the Bible itself. Top of the list is the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Few know that later in the Bible (Ezekiel 16:49-50), there is a list of the 5 sins that brought about Sodom's destruction, and homosexuality (or indeed any sexuality) is not among them. Arrogance and pride, on the other hand, were. Romans 1 in the new testament is rather odd - Paul describes observing a group of people who, despite being taught about Jesus, insisted on worshipping idols. As a result, God made them gay. Now that's a bit odd isn't it? God miraculously making people sin even more? Most likely what Paul observed was an orgy that was part and parcel of religious groups who clearly didn't have the word "prudery" in their dictionary. Still it's amusing to imagine the expression on his face when he saw everyone fling their togs off and engage in this romp. In other new testament verses, Greek words like arsenokoites were rendered as "homosexuals", although in other texts it means male prostitutes. The word "malakos" literally means soft, and can mean both physically soft as well as someone who refuses to defend against an aggressor. That was translated as "effeminate".

We can't go back in time to ask what they meant exactly. We don't have the other side of the conversation - remember that these were letters, and each one was addressed at a specific group of recipients in a specific place. They were never intended as a general guide for everyone.

What we're left with is our own innate sense of justice and our capability of reason. It is through our reason that we must achieve a sense of morality, not by relying on a collection of writings that were written in a different time and for people living in very different conditions. Such a book can provide insights, but we must still use our minds to apply this to our modern world, and sometimes that means abandoning something that used to be a pillar of civilisation. That's how we got rid of slavery and burning witches. That is how we'll get rid of homophobia.