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Archive for the ‘Bible’ Category

Jacques Berlinerblau, associate professor of Jewish Civilization at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, wrote a piece in WaPo about the lack of religious rhetoric in the recent Republican debate. He concludes:

Which begs the question, why? One explanation has to do with the content of the debate. The economic issues facing the American people do not lend themselves easily to chapter-and-verse citations. After all, it is hard to find biblical proof texts pertaining to ethanol subsidies. Then again, the scriptures do have a few things to say about taxes and none of those associations were drawn.

Maybe this demonstrates that during the Fourth Great Awakening religious conservatives devoted far more attention to social and cultural issues than economic ones. As Democrats are quick to point out, religious Republicans never did forcefully address the scriptures’ messages on poverty, preferring instead to concentrate on homosexuality and abortion.

Whatever the case may be, Tuesday’s debate permitted voters to ponder what the Republican Party might look and sound like if Conservative Christians make good on their threat to take their business elsewhere.

One could only hope that they do. I want the return of the pre-Rove/W Republican party–even if that means a Democrat may win in 2008. I have never been fond of the Democratic party, but I believe the Christianist influence in the Republican party makes it the greater of two evils.

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Lesbianism and the Book of Ruth

Cory Tucholski from Josiah Concept Ministries has challenged my interpretation of the book of Ruth. My response is as follows:

I will grant you that my initial post on the Book of Ruth lacked depth. Though I also feel that you present a somewhat naïve interpretation yourself, as you fail to address the language and the context of the Biblical story.

First order in supporting my claim that Naomi and Ruth had a potentially romantic relationship, I would like to look at a specific bit of language found in the Book of Ruth. Ruth (1:14) states that “Ruth clung to [Naomi]”. The usage of the verb to cling is significant in that it is found in Genesis to describe the relationship between Adam and Eve. Genesis (2:24) reads: “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.” Thus it would seem in using this common language, that the relationship between Naomi and Ruth was similar to that of Adam and Eve.

Now to look at the context of the verse. You claim, “Ruth is Naomi’s daughter-in-law. I really don’t see a romantic relationship developing between these two women.” You are correct that that the women were mother and daughter in law, but I don’t understand how you can make the stretch from there that this means they could not be lovers. The Bible is full of passages about romantic relationships that we would not consider kosher in our modern world.

For example, the story of Judah and Tamar from Genesis 38, in which Tamar becomes pregnant by her father-in-law Judah. Like Ruth, Tamar was drawn to her dead husband’s parent after a string of failed levirate marriages.

You also question how Naomi and Ruth could possibly be lovers if Naomi helped Ruth marry Boaz. Again, you overlook other Bible passages in which people have intimate relationships with more than one person for the sake of carrying on a lineage. This is true of Abraham and Hagar, Jacob and his wives, David and Bathsheeba, etc.

Lineage was extremely important in Bible, as I’m sure you are aware. The Elimelech lineage, to which Naomi belonged, would have come to an end with the death Naomi’s sons (Ruth’s husbands). In order to continue that lineage, which would eventually produce both King David and Jesus, either Naomi or Ruth would have to have a child, and at that time, a man was the only way to do that.

And of course, marrying a person of the opposite sex does not preclude one from being gay, as the stories of Ted Haggard, Larry Craig, et. al painfully reveal.

I believe the passages referring to the birth of Obed are also significant in that they show how Naomi and Ruth share parenthood with Obed. Ruth (4:16-17) reads, “Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying, “A son has been born to Naomi.”

Obed’s father Boaz is a minimal figure—pretty much that of a sperm donor. The passage clearly reveals that Naomi is a more important parental figure to Obed than Boaz. It seems that Naomi is playing the role of the non-biological mother that you see in modern lesbian families. Of course that is a difficult connection to make, given the different era and lack of further Biblical text, but it does not seem as far fetched as you would have it.

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Today’s passage for the bibliomancers out there comes from Job 7:1-2:

Human life is like forced army service,

like a life of hard manual labor,

like a slave longing for cool shade;

like a worker waiting for his pay.

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Reuters reports how the evangelical religion and culture in Texas is behind the state’s record number of executions:

Texas will almost certainly hit the grim total of 400 executions this month, far ahead of any other state, testament to the influence of the state’s conservative evangelical Christians and its cultural mix of Old South and Wild West.

[…]

Like his predecessor, Governor Perry is a devout Christian, highlighting one key factor in Texas’ enthusiasm for the death penalty that many outsiders find puzzling — the support it gets from conservative evangelical churches.

This is in line with their emphasis on individuals taking responsibility for their own salvation, and they also find justification in scripture.

“A lot of evangelical Protestants not only believe that capital punishment is permissible but that it is demanded by God. And they see sanction for that in the Old Testament especially,” said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

I was reminded of the Bible story from John (8:7) where a mob of people brought a woman to be stoned to death, but Jesus stopped them saying, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”

Of course there are other Bible passages that condone capital punishment, just as there are contradictory Bible verses countless other issues. This is why I cannot believe the Bible is infallible and why I believe it cannot be taken literally. When one cites a Bible passage to justify one’s position, they usually choose the passage that supports their preexisting prejudice and discount the one that says the opposite

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Last week I wrote about the Ten Commandments Commission and H.RES. 598.

A blogger from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State picked up on the story and wrote more about the Ten Commandments Commission:

The list of endorsers reads like a veritable Who’s Who among the Religious Right. It includes John Hagee, Pat Robertson, Rod Parsley, Jay Sekulow, Benny Hinn, David Barton, Gary Bauer, Charles Colson, Roberta Combs, James Dobson, D.
James Kennedy, Tony Perkins, Rick Scarborough, Lou Sheldon, Paul Weyrich, Don Wildmon and Ted Haggard (yep, his name is still on the list).

The organization is headed by Ron Wexler, an Orthodox Jew and Israeli native whose online bio makes him sound like a tourism official.

Wexler sounds like quite a piece of work. After the Gulf Coast hurricanes of 2005, one fundamentalist writer quoted him saying, “It was revealed to me that in numerology, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters that make up the name Rita + God is equal 620. The number of all the Hebrew letters that make up the Ten Commandments is…. 620! Is there a connection?… Could this now be the spirit of God above the water? Rita + God equal 620 equal the Ten Commandments? Could this be the wake up call for the nation? Now when the Ten Commandments are thrown out of schools and out of courts, could there be a connection? Just think for a moment that there is a correlation.”

Last year, Wexler claimed to have located “an inscription of the Ten Commandments in ancient Hebrew has been dated at more than five hundred years old” at a remote mountain in New Mexico.

Reported one Web site, “This mysterious, ancient inscription of God’s foundational law for all mankind, found in the American wilderness, causes thoughtful people to wonder if God indeed had His mighty hand on the United States of America hundreds of years before it was even founded, said Wexler.”

H.RES. 598 has been refered to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. You can read text here and here.

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Someone calls to me from Edom, “Sentry, how soon will the night be over? Tell me how soon it will end.”

I answer, “Morning is coming, but night will come again. If you want to as again, come back and ask.”

Isaiah 22:11-12

Case closed. If God says morning comes after night, what’s the point of teaching anything else in public school astronomy class?

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Today’s Bible passage is not random. It is one of my favorite passages:

Where you go, I will go; where you lodge I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God. Where you die, I will die — there will I be buried. May the Lord do thus and so to me, and more as well, if even death parts me from you. Ruth 1:16-17

That is one woman speaking to another (Ruth to Naomi to be exact). The religious right tries as hard as it can to demonize the love between two individuals of the same sex, but this passage shows that it was alive and celebrated in the Bible, as I wish it only could be today.

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