Do you know what makes me really sad? Apart from the fact that dinner tonight is basically going to consist of lentils and porridge oats or something and maybe a tin of tomatoes?
Christians on the internet. That’s what makes me sad. I shouldn’t read comment threads especially on things like, for example, this video, which is of a young man making a passionate defence of his loving and supportive upbringing in Iowa by his two mothers, simply making the point that the gender of your parents is not what matters. Very well done him, but it’s a shame that in the 21st century this is something that still needs saying.
Anyway, yes, Christians on the Internet. Presumably those same Christians hold those same views away from the internet as well. I don’t like to say that they’re wrong. I believe everyone has a right to the opinions they hold, but people get so angry in these kinds of arguments and then quote bits of the Bible, e.g. Corinthians and Leviticus, where homosexuality is clearly made out to be a sin. Then other people jump back in with ‘JUDGE NOT LEST YE BE JUDGED’ and, I’m sorry, but if you feel the need to put an argument or quotation in capitals, well, you’re probably going to lose your audience. Everyone has different views on all of these things and the problem with the Bible is that you can pull out quotations from all over the place to justify more or less any opinion under the sun.
You can also pull out quotations which are either completely irrelevant in the 21st century, or have as hard and fast laws things that no decent person would do these days, like keeping slaves or exchanging wives for material goods.
Of course I think the Bible is a very valuable text. A lot of wise people contributed to it and a lot of Godly people had a hand in it and I do believe a lot of it to be divinely inspired. I’m not a biblical scholar by any means – I haven’t even read the Bible all the way through once yet, so arguably I’m completely unqualified to jump in on any debate like this. But even the youngest books in the Bible are nearly two thousand years old. The old testament is even older. It was written for a different people in a different set of cultural conditions. Parts of it were very specifically addressed to very small groups of people with very specific concerns – for example, look at most of the letters of Paul. You cannot take a literal approach to the Bible. But you cannot choose on a whim which bits you like and which bits you don’t, either because you’re a massive hippy and think Jesus would probably encourage you to get stoned and have lots of sex with lots of people because he hung out with 12 guys and a prostitute and his first miracle was turning water into wine, or because you sit on the political right, think that turning your 5 talents into 10 is the best idea ever, believe that that line about camels passing through the eyes of needles and rich men getting into heaven is probably mistranslated and means almost entirely the opposite, and meanwhile that homosexuality is a sin which will get you cast down into hell.
The Bible says a lot of things. Some of those things almost directly contradict each other (see the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible for a list). Furthermore everyone coming to the Bible has their own opinions, feelings and thoughts, biases which they apply as they begin to read. There’s a whole wealth of meanings and layers and interpretations there and though I would say the Bible hugely informs my faith, so do a lot of other things. And I would never feel qualified to get into an argument about Christian morality or philosophy without a lot more thought or unless very obviously on the understanding that I am not qualified to comment in any way. So it makes me sad when people simply use the Bible as a sort of armoury of quotes to back up their opinions so they can say ‘Jesus would definitely agree with me’. It doesn’t work like that.
Still, it’s not as if the atheists are any better. If your argument consists of ‘WELL THE BIBLE SAYS WE SHOULD STONE ALL THE HOMOSEXUALS SO YOU CHRISTIANS ARE ALL IDIOTS’, you can quite frankly get off the internet now thank you.
I suppose what I mean is, if you’re going to argue a belief in any thing, you should know yourself why you hold that belief and you should have interrogated that belief a little bit more deeply than ‘Leviticus says we should stone all the gays so let’s do that’, or ‘Mary Magdelene was a prostitute, hooray’.
Furthermore, I mean, I’m sorry that some obviously very angry and emotional people somehow manage to consistently make Christians look a bit stupid. I feel like a bad person for questioning anyone’s intellect or how much they have really interrogated their faith, but I don’t believe that mine is a religion which is homophobic by necessity or nature (or indeed anything else, I’ve simply been using homosexuality as an example), and what really makes me sad is that there are as many intelligent, responsible, thoughtful and wise Christians out there as non-Christians, and those good people are so much less likely to be listened to because so often everyone assumes that they know what’s coming, and what’s coming won’t be wise or intelligent or liberal. That’s not necessarily the case, and I really wish that the dim and intolerant voices out there didn’t somehow often seem also to be the loudest.