The Plight

Rwandan Refugee Camp - U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services

If you read some of the comments from my previous two blogs, you’ll quickly notice that my perspective of homosexuality in relationship to Christianity puts me at odds with the gay community. You’ll also see that with this hot-button issue discussions can quickly become inflamed arguments, even among friends. And it’s entirely possible we’ll disagree on these things for a very long time to come. But there is one thing I am confident we do agree on. Our world is overflowing with refugees and not all are the result of wars between world governments. Vulnerable people, often the young, are continually being caught in the crossfire between the GLBT and socially conservative battle lines.

Imagine yourself as a 15-year young man who begins to feel an attraction to other guys. What would go through your mind? Seriously, take a minute to consider the inner turmoil that you might feel. Where would you turn for help in processing your struggle?

If you look toward the GLBT community, the message might be something like: “This is your identity! Embrace it! Accept who you are! Come out of the closet and quit living a double life!” But maybe you don’t want to go there.

Turning toward the conservative Christian community, you could hear a very different message. “What’s wrong with you? How can you call yourself a Christian? If you were a real Christian, you wouldn’t have such thoughts!”

Then, of course, there are the bullies. Those who prey upon weakness and ridicule anyone different from themselves. Their torment can be absolutely brutal!

Photo by lisasoloynko - morgueFile

So, if you were in this situation, where would you turn? You certainly didn’t ask to be physically attracted to other males. Maybe you have even prayed extensively that your desires would simply go away. But they haven’t. Where does that leave you?

Although I’ve never wrestled with same sex attraction, I’ve had my share of struggles in life. There have been times when unwanted feelings and desires wouldn’t go away no matter how much I prayed. Times when I tried turning to Christians for counsel, only to receive hollow, pat answers. Times when I avoided speaking openly because of the judgmental murmurings I heard around me. Breaking my silence would have been tantamount to drawing a bullseye on my back. Such times are lonely, painful, confusing. You feel as though you’ll be sprayed with arrows if you let down your guard even for a second.

Photo by Mary R. Vogt - morgueFile

It’s here that I think the sin of the conservative Christian community is grave. Rather than lending a hand of love, encouragement or strength to those struggling with same sex attraction (or any other issue), we tend to create a judgmental environment, complete with off handed comments and contemptuous jokes. In the end we push people toward the gay community, which they often find much more accepting. Those who desire to stay connected to conservative Christianity are compelled to a turtle-like existence. Feeling inferior as Christians they pull inward to hide their struggles. Sometimes the pain of the plight leads as far as suicide. This really is a life and death issue.

The Apostle Peter once wrote, “Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:17 NASB). It’s such a simple and powerful command—one that truly deserves our attention. God doesn’t call us to agree with everyone or to put a stamp of approval on everybody’s actions, but to treat all men and women with honor and respect. It’s amazing how something so simple can be so life-giving, and yet mostly ignored! Until we learn how to honor even those who oppose us, the best of our arguments ring hollow and our witness ineffective. And worst of all, spiritual refugees will continue to suffer and possibly die in isolation. Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Holy Spirit of God dwells within us. We can do better than this!

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21 thoughts on “The Plight

  1. I do agree that we need to treat gays with love, but I disagree on the point of homosexuality. Compare the “unwanted feelings” to the first whisperings of God to women leaders. Everyone thought Joan of Ark was crazy. Turns out maybe she wasn’t. When my local bishop was called by called, there were no women leaders in the local church, she thought she was crazy. Turns out she wasn’t. Love you Bob, but I’m sure we’ll always disagree on this:-)

    1. Meghan, I’ve seen solid Biblical explanations for women serving as leaders in the church. Any attempt I’ve seen at Biblical exposition in favor of homosexuality has been full of speculation and lacking in accuracy. Love you too! Bob

  2. Bob,

    I’m enjoying the blog posts and discussions. I hope they can remain civil! and I look forward to reading more. This is good to be discussing.

    I don’t have a strong opinion on this matter mostly because I don’t take the time to think about it for fear of becoming more judgmental. I’ve experienced two pretty close friends who have “come out” and in doing so distanced themselves from me without us actually having a discussion about it. I’m assuming this is because they figured I was a kind of Christian who wouldn’t accept them. One of these relationships has been getting better recently!

    Anyway, my thought or question is: Should this really be such a political issue? Many of the comments on the previous post suggested otherwise. That the government should stay out of it and allow individual institutions to define marriage as they see fit. I tend to lean towards this argument, but I also see the value of “traditional marriage being good for society” as you said. I see politicizing the issue hurting both sides. As you’ve outlined in this post the gay community is hurt with not being accepted and the Christian community, I feel, is hurt as a whole when being a Christian is associated with a specific political agenda. It allows Christians to literally, “check all the right boxes” and never deal with their heart issues where God really wants them to go. So my whole political position after going deeper in my Christian faith is to see politics as a necessary evil of sorts that I shouldn’t really rely on to deal with problems.

    Perhaps I’m being pessimistic when I think that American society and law is moving away from Christianity anyway so why don’t we just let it move away and we as Christians will actually be better for it because it won’t be so easy to check the boxes. Perhaps this mindset is just a result of my generation being less patriotic as well. Hopefully I’m not off topic, but I’d love to hear your and other’s thoughts.

    How do I actively care about my country and use what I believe to be truth to vote without doing more harm than good? Are we as Christians putting to much emphasis on the political part of the same sex marriage debate?

    Also, interesting to me moving from a rural church to one near Washington D.C. Is that people actually talk about politics in church a whole lot less here!

    Thanks,
    Sam

    1. Sam, to a degree your thoughts echo those of Jeff and some others who have posted. While I certainly do not see myself as a political activist, I do believe that this is a political issue. I’ll write more about this in the future, but it has been my experience that our religious freedoms, which are supposed to be protected by the constitution of these United States, are being eroded with increased frequency. What recourse do we have when accusations of hate speech are employed to limit the ability of Christian ministries to function? I have experienced this first hand, and have second and third hand knowledge of many more situations. Check out this recent article in the Christian Post, for example. Another article in Catholic Online lays out the issue very well (although I think the language is a little too inflammatory). This was a very real issue for us at IUP (we were denied campus recognition for almost two years) so it’s not just a matter of something out there in a far off land.

      Christian leaders stand on solid ground when they sound an alarm about the importance of this issue and the need to vote wisely. My problem is that they get sucked into a political mindset of propaganda and manipulation–in the end these methods incite animosity against the very people we should be showing the love of Christ.

  3. Good post! There is so much to say about this post and the comments. Alright, in as brief as possible…

    1) I suppose I have to identify as a Spiritual Refugee now. Sadly, I do not want to.

    2) A 15 year old with same sex feelings probably won’t talk to anyone about it. It is assumed at 15 that no one understands and everyone will judge. This might be exactly what I felt at 15 about this issue. In all fairness, I don’t think the gay friendly response would be as embracing. It’s probably better characterized as ‘well, you need to work it out for yourself. We have these resources if you want more info.’ It is a myth that gay people are out there trying to convert people.

    3) Biblical interpretation of homosexuality is crippled by the disparity between modern and ancient thought-language. Also, it is probably impossible to remove bias from exegesis.

    4) Part of the reason we’re at loggerheads is that there is no agreeable analogy with which to compare to homosexuality. It seems there are no satisfactory ones because of the inability at this time to prove that homosexuality is more than a behavior. If homosexuality could be proven genetic tomorrow, would this issue go away?

    5) Let the record show that Sam Hakes is the man! If for no other reason than our mewithoutYou connection. Also, I agree with him that church and politics probably need to be separated. Certainly, faith can inform politics, but why is the church going after gay marriage and not the tax code? (besides it’s incredible boringness) That’s probably where the real injustice is.

    6) Bob, this is tough, but one person’s ministry is another person’s hate speech. Now, I’m not making any accusations, but things get muddled in translation. I can be as kind and supportive as possible of something, and have that interpreted as being offensive (you can imagine my surprise when this actually happened to me). I know patience is tough, though.

    7) There has been some talk about what is ‘good for society’ and when does that talk roll down the slippery slope to eugenics (as was practiced in this country for nearly 50 years) not to mention the holocaust? It’s all subtle, it seems, but maybe I’m pointing out the absurdity or danger of the slippery slope argument…

  4. Jason, I appreciate your efforts at brevity, but I would like a little more info. on a few points.

    Regarding 1 & 2, I feel your pain and your point about the myth of gay conversion is duly noted. My comments were alluding more to the public relations campaign to define homosexuality as an identity rather than a behavior, but I can see how they would be seen otherwise.

    3. I need more clarification here. Are you saying that the Bible cannot be relied upon as the inspired Word of God in modern times? That we don’t have any ability to understand ancient thought language? All of the Biblical scholars I read begin their exegesis with a focus on the original context and manner of thought.

    4. No, this issue probably would not go away if homosexuality was proven to be genetic. However, I think it’s a moot point. Not only has it not been proven genetic, there is plenty of current evidence to the contrary. Any “new evidence” would be contradictory.

    5. Sam Hakes is the man! I’m glad you think well of him–although he and I don’t seem to agree on this particular point. Why is the church going after gay marriage and not the tax code? To a certain degree much of the church often responds only to the issues particular leaders emphasize. And what gets their attention is an attempt to squelch religious freedom. They see this in the gay marriage movement (I’ll post more about it later).

    The boringness, or rather complexity, of the tax code does influence all of this. In our current cultural climate, it’s difficult to examine issues with genuine thought rather than pat arguments and inflammatory sound bites. I will say that one of the problems I’ve had with the conservative Christian alignment with the Republican party in recent years is the alignment with big business. I think we’re to the point, however, where most Christian conservatives are choosing the Republican party as the lesser of two evils.

    6. I would like to hear the story of your personal experience. Jason, you rank right up there with my wife when it comes to my leading list of non-offensive people!

    7. I’m having a really difficult time understanding two things about the “slippery slope” argument. Perhaps someone will enlighten me.

    When I say that legalizing gay marriage will open the door to many undesirable consequences, how is this wrong? Take some time to read the language of paragraph 7 (just above the table of contents) of this Wikapedia post. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Polyamory). This movement may not have been birthed out of the gay movement, but there certainly is a partnership of sorts. Also check out http://polyamorysociety.org/. I was around in the 70’s watching intently as the homosexual movement established it’s footing. What I see with the polyamory movement now is not far from what I saw then. Add to this the apparent growth of swingers clubs, etc. I just don’t see how the slippery slope argument in this case is unrealistic. (Please note that this is only one of many potential cause and effect consequences.)

    Someone please explain how conservative Christians, the champions of the sanctity of life (because of their belief in Biblical principles) in pursuing what’s “good for society” would ever even consider advocating the extermination of anybody? I think somebody else brought up a similar point and I have to agree that the word “absurd” applies here. Can anybody tell me the source of this argument? I tend to think it’s rooted in an attempt to invalidate the conservative slippery slope argument, but I could be wrong.

    J, I don’t know if we’ll have the time to thoroughly explore all of these ideas, but I always appreciate your sincere and caring heart! It would also be nice to see more conservatives weigh in with their opinions. For the most part my opinion seems to be in the minority when it comes to comments. I don’t know if that’s good or bad! 🙂

    1. I’m pretty tired right now, so I’m not sure how any of this will come off.

      1&2&4&7 As far as I’ve heard the science is still out on homosexuality being genetic or learned. Therefore, in my mind, the identity vs behavior is still up for debate. If you have some sources, I’d be happy to check them out. Tying this to the slippery slope, if a person is who he is, can any amount of advertising or social decay really change him? I would say not a chance, especially, if his parents raised him well. Now, if we are for or against an issue because we want to influence other families, then I think it starts to border on some form of social engineering. Now if you take the slippery slope argument as viable, then it could eventually lead to Nazism. I don’t take the slippery slope argument seriously, because I like what I like. I think the logic behind the slippery slope argument is a victim of the ‘myth of the good old days.’

      3: Here I am making the point that homosexuality is a modern concept. It is difficult to use the Bible to really say anything about it for this reason. I think that any verses we might want to use for arguing either way would be clouded by bias. Maybe a parallel would be that you wouldn’t turn to the Bible to learn about Uranium. In general, I think the Bible is much more understandable in general concepts, than it is in specific incidences.

      5: Despite your disagreements with Sam, and despite Sam still being the man, I think his reply lands him closer to you than me. Bob, the comments section is never a lonely place.

      That being said, I kind of feel like the Republicans have the church duped because they say what the church thinks it wants to hear and then never delivers. I really wish the Church would be more proactive in setting the agenda, like it did in the Civil Rights Movement. (I’m not sure how to write any of this paragraph without offending someone)

      6: Bob, it’s unfortunate I don’t drink coffee, but I think we might be able to arrange something.

      1. J, for an excellent book on the orthodox perspective of this issue you might want to check out “The Bible and Homosexual Practice” by Robert A.J. Gagnon. Not only does he delve into the Biblical and historical perspectives of this issue, he also lays out many of the studies done in recent years.

        I can usually track fairly well with your arguments, even if I disagree with them, but regarding the Bible and homosexuality we are far apart. Homosexuality is by no means a modern concept. It has existed for centuries. (I’ve heard advocates for homosexuality use this point in their support of homosexuality.) It’s difficult, however, to know the degree of prevalence with regard to individual cultures. We know from the account of Abraham and Lot that homosexuality existed about the Canaanites to at least some degree. The prohibition of homosexuality as laid out in Leviticus 18 is very strongly worded to the point that it was heeded for the most part by ancient Jews and later Christians. There is a strong moral element to all of this in relationship to the sanctity of sex and marriage. Uranium is amoral–unless you are using it to poison somebody.

        I do , however, agree with you that many conservative Christians have been duped by the Republican party.

  5. Bob, I think you make a really good argument particularly about our rights to religious freedom. And it’s so complicated because it’s so black and white. Everyone only wants to know two questions: 1. Are you gay, yes or no? 2. Do you accept that I am gay, yes or no? And this sound-bite era of politics is giving everyone exactly that.

    If you asked me I would say, I believe the evidence in the Bible concludes homosexuality to be a sin, and I believe the Bible to be true. Does that mean I don’t accept someone who is gay? Well I do accept them, but it would have limits – for instance they could be a close friend, come to church, participate in a Bible study, probably even serve in worship or lead a discussion group, but cold they be an elder or a pastor without confronting their homosexuality as a sin or be married to their partner in my church? I would say no. So therefore I am not accepting them as a whole because my acceptance has limitations. So do I accept homosexuals? No. Right?

    If those are my only three objections to homosexuals is that how I should vote? How do I know what to think about them in non-Christian society (or legal unions)? I feel I would have the same limitations for someone who is struggling with addiction or going through divorce. It’s also really difficult because Jesus didn’t live with elected officials – at least to my knowledge, if he did that would be something to consider, but I feel like I know where I stand on my moral acceptance of homosexuals, but how does that translate into voting?

    The other answer “yes” I accept everything about you is dangerous too and I think the reasoning behind lots of the religious freedom issues. People don’t want to create a controversy and accepting someone or some behavior is so easy because it’s just a mental switch, but what’s interesting is how much consequence comes from these mental switch. I was listening to this NPR show about this lady who was a dolphin trainer who was using her dolphins to raise awareness about the illegal killing of wild dolphins. It was a call in show and someone called in and said something like, “how can you call yourself a dolphin activist when you torture dolphins in captivity forcing them to perform tricks.” I don’t know if the caller championed for dolphin rights in her spare time or not, but I can only assume she just made her mind up that she was more a dolphin activist than this lady who spends her whole life talking about it because she flipped better mental switches.

    I feel like politics is mostly this – does he flip the same mental switches that I flip? And every issue has to be whittled down to mental switch level to communicate it well. So the consequences come by getting people to not really think about the things they agree with, but just to react. Like to Christians “you know you wouldn’t want your church marrying gay people so you are against gays” Check Yes. Then to the homosexual community – “you know the conservatives don’t except you, we do” Check Yes. So when the Facebook CEO is looking at a controversial issues he just might see it pretty black and white “Christians means bad, homosexuals means good, I want to be good.” The same thing may happen with school boards when they vote on campus groups. Ideas are simplified and there are no real discussions. So anyway, this wouldn’t be that long of a response if I thought it was a simple answer, but I agree the campus groups thing is ridiculous, but I don’t think the answer is to blame the gay community for plotting world domination I would blame the politicians on both sides for simplifying our real issues into sound-bites that just make the issues bigger and worse. Their whole goal is to create division to distinguish themselves above other candidates. Have you seen a debate recently? It’s nonsense. What should really happen is a whole debate should be about one topic and they should talk about it for an hour or two, but it’s 70 topic with 30 second answers between 7 people who are essentially saying the same well crafted thing. And maybe this is the generational gap thing I was speaking about before, that me and many of the people my age I know are pretty fed up with it. I can’t decide if I like Republicans or Democrats because it seems to me they make up a bunch of differences that do a lot of damage to society, only to do about the same thing when they get into office.

    1. Sam, I grew up in an economically disadvantaged household. I remembered my parents saying “Republicans are for the rich. Democrats are for the poor.” That was pretty much the sum total of their political views.

      It seems that we live in a world of political over simplification and I agree that a major reason is that our political views are determined more by sound bytes than by the real issues. The sound bytes are so much easier though, because the issues tend to be far more complicated than we’re willing or able to explore. I think you would enjoy “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman. It says a lot about some of the factors that have led us to this place.

  6. Bob,
    In all fairness, I’m not sure ‘orthodox’ is the best word for describing Gagnon’s book. Orthodox means something else entirely, that I think liberals and conservatives have completely lost grasp of. I think I better way to describe Gagnon’s book would be ‘modern conservative viewpoint’, which is fair enough. I haven’t read his text, published in 2002, because I suspect it came out after the bulk of my study on the subject. However, the reviews of his text on amazon leave something to be desired. It seems his work is polarizing on the issue. If you have a copy, I’d be happy to take a look at it. (more than happy actually. I get really amped about new data in general.)

    As far as I can tell, the word homosexual wasn’t coined until 1869, and in modern usage it has the connotation of being something more than a strictly sexual relationship(that there could actually be love) between two people of the same sex.
    I don’t deny that people were aware of same-sex relationships before the modern era, but I do think the conception was a bit more bestial(that they were just having sex to have sex). If I didn’t mention it before, John Boswell has written a couple books detailing the history of Christian acceptance of same-sex relationships thoughout pre-modern Europe. However, I suspect his book is just as controversial as Gagnon’s, although some of the quotes do seem to speak for themselves.

    My understanding of the story of Lot, while it decries homosexual rape, really has more to do with inhospitality(as it is later referenced in the bible). Either way, it doesn’t really address the issue of a same-sex loving relationship.

    Leviticus 18, while it is explicit, I don’t believe it is proscriptive for all circumstances. Certainly, it is wrong to have sex during a liturgy, which is what I believe Leviticus 11-26 is discussing as a whole. I suspect that what is prohibited in this section may have something to do with the religious practices of the peoples who lived near the Jews at this time. The wikipedia article http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sacred_prostitution provides some basis for this interpretation.

    What this all means is somewhat foggy. Could it be that what is ritually unclean ok outside of worship? I don’t think the Bible ever clearly answers that question. I’m not sure if the Bible even makes a distinction on that point. Today the dogma of the separation of church and state weighs heavily. I’m not sure which situation I’d prefer.

  7. Jason, I can’t imagine someone writing a book about Christianity and homosexuality that isn’t polarizing. What one camp embraces, the other will surely reject. What’s interesting about Gagnon is that I would find his overall perspective of the Bible to have what I would call a slight “academic, liberal slant.” He also expresses a degree of sensitivity, but does not mince words when it comes to his overall perspective on this issue. I’m sure that’s why he is seen as polarizing. (You are welcome to borrow my copy of his book.)

    Again, I have to disagree with your perspective that homosexuality seen as a loving relationship between two individuals is purely a modern thought, while in ancient times it had to do only with sex itself. We have examples from Greco-Roman literature that extol the virtues of same sex love–sometimes even above heterosexual love.

    I just don’t see the basis for your argument from Leviticus 11-26. It injects a measure of speculation that isn’t in the text.

  8. Bob,
    I might be able to say that the conservative view is speculative as well. The problem with the text is we’re not given any background explanation. The Bible isn’t necessarily a thorough history of every culture of that era. I don’t think that’s it’s purpose. I hope we can agree that the Bible is fairly consistent in saying that the Jews should not adopt the religious practices of other cultures, and that the bulk of Leviticus delivers that message.

    However, Leviticus 18:3 states: “You shall not do as they do in the land of Egypt, where you lived, and you shall not do as they do in the land of Canaan, to which I am bringing you. You shall not follow their statutes.” So, the list of prohibitions that follow likely have some connection to Egyptian or Canaanite practices. It isn’t clear if the activities are of a religious or social nature.

    I think you’re right about pre-modern conceptions of homosexuality. I forgot about when I read “Homosexual Verse” freshman year. And as I’m sure you’ve heard much has been written about the potential homosexuality between Jonathan and David.
    I think it’s probably never a good idea to blog after midnight.

    It looks like we’ll be in town some time in October. I’ll email you when I know when.

  9. I never saw all the responses, lol. My take on the homosexuality deal in the OT was that the Jews were obsessed with ritual purity so homosexuality was a big no no for that reason and that reason only. Sodom and Gomorrah had to do with in-hospitality, not homosexuality. And some of the so called “homosexuality” discussed in the Bible was not actually homosexuality, but rape, and it didn’t matter who the partner was. My main reason for the way I feel about homosexuality is not the Bible, but my heart. I have a relationship with Christ and He speaks to me in my heart. Not that gays that go from one to another are fine, but being in a committed relationship, just like man and a woman. Think about it, did Jesus ever mention same sex relationships? Oh, and Bob, you gave me a bit of a laugh calling me a liberal, because other than this issue, I’ve just discovered, I’m actually more of a Conservative, lol.

  10. Jason and Meghan, I am having a very difficult time seeing your perspectives in the Leviticus text. I may need you to explain your ideas to me in more detail.

    I have read and reread Leviticus 18 and the surrounding passages. Leviticus 18 is addressed to the sons of Israel as a whole and the context is purity of lifestyle. Other passages specifically mention the priesthood, ceremonial law, etc. Without going into detail, the forcefulness of the Leviticus 18 language is very clear and contains no qualifications about rape, ritual, etc.

    Meghan, please don’t take any personal offense to this, but I think it’s crazy, scary to trust in any human heart apart from the Scriptures–yours, mine or anybody’s.

  11. As a preliminary thought, I believe the whole of the OT lays out this concern for the Jews: If the Jews are influenced by the cultures of other peoples, they will eventually adopt the religions of other peoples. I believe this trend is repeated over and over in Judges to illustrate this point. Therefore, prohibitions listed in Leviticus as a whole were given to prevent this. Some are overtly religious, some appear not to be, but I think in the end they all point to the same goal–to keep the Jews separated from other peoples in order to have them perform God’s will.

    I always ask myself when reading the Bible: why was it said? It makes the Biblical journey that much more complicated for me because it becomes really difficult to take even the simplest verse at face value.

    Of anything beyond these, my child, beware. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh. (Ecc. 12:12)

    1. Jason, I’m in total agreement with you in asking the question “Why was it said?” This is one of the foundations to proper Biblical interpretation.

      Taking it a step further–why would God be concerned about the religious or sexual practices of the other nations? What was God’s will that they were to perform? Reading to the Leviticus 18 text I can’t help but think that He was trying to protect them from practices that would severely damage them and their unique relationship with Him.

      Am I missing something here? I’m trying my best to allow this text to speak for itself without the influence of my personal opinions.

      “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination . . . Do not defile yourselves by any of these things; for by all these the nations which I am casting out before you have become defiled. For the land has become defiled, therefore I have brought its punishment upon it, so the land has spewed out its inhabitants. But as for you, you are to keep My statutes and My judgments and shall not do any of these abominations, neither the native, nor the alien who sojourns among you (for the men of the land who have been before you have done all these abominations, and the land has become defiled); so that the land will not spew you out, should you defile it, as it has spewed out the nation which has been before you. For whoever does any of these abominations, those persons who do so shall be cut off from among their people. Thus you are to keep My charge, that you do not practice any of the abominable customs which have been practiced before you, so as not to defile yourselves with them; I am the LORD your God.”

  12. Bob,
    I think I answered this before, but God is concerned with the sexual/religious practices of other nations because other nations were living with the Jews and would influence the Jews. God needed to give the Jews a list of acceptable and forbidden acts in ritual.

    This is very clear in Judges, with Gideon’s family worshipping the altar to Baal. Gideon destroyed the altar, and his family freaked out at first, because Gideon destroyed their god. I think this sort of adoption of other peoples cultures was probably even more prevalent after the Assyrian and Babylonian invasions.

    I hope we both know that God’s will is to worship Him in obedience.

    What is a sticking point, perhaps, is were these prohibited acts prohibited because they were inherently wrong or because they were the religious/cultural practices of other cultures? I tend to think it is more the latter, where I suspect you may think it the former.

    Something also perhaps up for discussion is the word ‘abomination.’ I think that today it may have a secular connotation, but in the bulk of its usage in the Bible it seems to be closely linked to ritual. My sense of its meaning is something like ‘an abomination is any act which is not in clear agreement with God’s allowable acts.’ Even then, we’re left with the question–are certain acts an abomination because they are acts from other cultures? I suppose we could go further. Canaanite acts are no longer practiced, so those rituals are effectively meaningless. Would they still be offensive to God because they have been removed from a ritual context?

    I suppose one further point, I don’t know how wide the boundary is between sacred and secular in Ancient Near Eastern thought, but I suspect it’s not as wide as it is today. It seems that it’s when the Jews try to separate the two that they get into trouble. Sounds familiar, eh?

    1. Jason, sometimes I feel as though we are so close in our line of thinking and other times so far apart! You definitely nailed it on where we differ. I find it very difficult to believe that God would give such strongly worded commands simply because He wanted the Israelites to be different from the surrounding nations–especially in light of the text. Yes, simple obedience was an important factor, but the language of the Levitical passages speaks of God’s abhorrence of the common practices of the surrounding nations. It’s about holiness and purity–not just being different–a theme that runs through the entire Bible. If I get some time, I’ll try to look into the meanings of what I think are some of the more significant words of the text.

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