I am just going to say it:
A literal interpretation of this writing leads to absolute abominations.
Am I talking about Hustler? The Marquis de Sade's libertine novel Juliette? Joseph Goebbels' anti-Semitic ravings?
It's the book that John Muir's father deemed “the only book human beings could possibly require,” the book that both Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama used to swear to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, the book that is so often quoted to justify hatred and violence.
I'm not just talking about loons like the Westboro Baptist Church, Rev. Donald Spitz or James Dobson. I'm thinking of people like a very nice lady who was my mom's friend, who took us out on her boat when the kids were little. Somehow we got into a discussion where she espoused the view that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality. I was as stunned as if she had mooned me and crapped on the deck. I disagreed with her politely (after all, we were on a boat, and I needed to get back on dry land eventually) and we moved on to other topics. But it was an epiphany for me. It's not just whack jobs like Dr. Laura who think this way.
I've been working on my upcoming Freedom of Religion class, reviewing popular culture films and television shows to serve as discussion starters. Here's a doozie on this theme.
I LOVE this clip. I love the writing. I love the delivery. And I have adored Martin Sheen since sixth grade, when a teacher screened The Missiles of October, in which he played Bobby Kennedy.
Just in case you can't get the clip to play, here's the script excerpt.
Bartlet: "Good. I like your show. I like how you call homosexuality ‘an abomination.'"
Jacobs: "I don't say homosexuality is an abomination Mr. President. The Bible does."
Bartlet: "Yes it does. Leviticus-"
Bartlet launches into an impassioned diatribe interspersed with shots of an uncomfortable Jacobs fidgeting: "Chapter and verse. I wanted to ask you a couple of questions while I had you here. I'm interested in selling my youngest daughter into slavery as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. She's a Georgetown sophomore, speaks fluent Italian, always cleared the table when it was her turn. What would a good price for her be? [silence in the room] While thinking about that can I ask another? My chief-of-staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself or is it okay to call the police?
"Here's one that's really important, 'cause we've got a lot of sports fans in this town. Touching the skin of a dead pig makes one unclean, Leviticus 11:7. If they promise to wear gloves can the Washington Redskins still play football? Can Notre Dame? Can West Point? Does the whole town really have to be together to stone my brother John for planting different crops side-by-side? Can I burn my mother in a small family gathering for wearing garments made from two different threads? Think about those questions, would you.
"One last thing. While you may be mistaking this for your monthly meeting of the ignorant tight-ass club, in this building when the President stands, nobody sits."
This is not to say that I don't acknowledge there are lots of great lessons in the Bible. Many of my friends do wonderful things, helping others in amazing ways. They choose to focus on the aspect of love rather than be judgemental.
As a teacher and parent, I've been encouraged to foster critical thinking in learners and my own children. To comprehend, analyze and evaluate rather than simply swallowing whole everything I hear or read.