By Carl Carter
We should give credit where it’s due. Roy Moore has read his Bible, and his preference for teenage girls makes perfect sense for someone whose guide to the universe (and ours, if he gets his way) includes such concepts as men being able to sell their daughters into slavery. Exodus 21 spells out the rules that apply for the new owner. (If you’re curious, her new owner can’t sell her to foreigners, and if he decides to marry someone else instead, he still has to keep her, feed her and apparently have sex with her.)
So really, if an older man wants to marry a young girl, what’s the beef – as long as he gets her daddy’s permission?
Now, let’s not forget that the Old Testament prescribes the death penalty for a host of offenses, including idolatry, blasphemy, sabbath breaking, rape of a person engaged to another (apparently single people are fair game), adultery, loss of virginity before marriage, and the all-time favorite, gay sex.
Point is, the Bible is chock full of horrifying rules, punishments and brutality, even when viewed in its cultural context. Even among more traditional liturgical Christians, who reject the Old Testament law as a relic of the time before Christ, let’s not forget that the entire religion is built around an act of pretended cannibalism – eating the body and drinking the blood of Christ. It’s all there in the Bible for your reading pleasure.
We Christians are the original walkers, as it were.
So we can accuse Moore of being out of step with historical Christianity, and of stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the many things we’ve learned from science and history. But by and large, the things that horrify us the most are entirely consistent with the Bible we all have on our own shelves.
I should note that Moore doesn’t get abortion right, because in fact, the Bible says nothing about that. Nothing. This isn’t surprising, because the scriptures were written long before we knew enough science to discuss the life status of an unborn baby. Still, the fundamentalists in the late 1970s needed a wedge issue, and as with anything else, you can find something in the Bible to justify what you’re looking for. So what do the fundamentalists pull out to make their case? Well, not much, really. There are some verses saying that God foreknew/predestined who would believe in him. Of course, this isn’t really on point, because this “knowing” happened centuries before there was a fetus in the womb. You see this theme in Psalm 139:13-16; and Jeremiah 1:5. Another argument is the general assertion throughout the Bible that babies are good, which I think most folks would agree with anyway. Finally, there’s a reference to John the Baptist kicking in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:41). So yes, babies kick, as every mother knows.
Fortunately, we don’t have to start stoning homosexuals and sabbath breakers, because if we take into account the timing and context of what the Bible says, we find that it isn’t inspired and doesn’t claim to be. The fundamentalists like to point to 2 Timothy 3: “All scripture is inspired by God,” etc. It’s a single, brief letter to a local church that claims to have been written by the Apostle Paul (though many scholars think it was someone else) – maybe in 61 A.D., maybe the next century. In either case, the only “scripture” a Jew in those days would know about would be the Torah, so that’s all it would really address. It certainly has nothing to do with the gospels (which came much later) or the entire New Testament (which was still in flux until the fifth century).
Yet, I adhere closely to the historic Christian faith. I take communion every week, accepting it as a graphic demonstration of a spiritual principle. It has a great deal of meaning for me. But basically, I do it because that’s what Christians do.
But it’s a faith based on a combination of the Bible, reason and tradition – not a literal reading of rules written by somebody in the desert a few thousand years ago. At any rate, from the very beginning, our founding fathers made it clear that our government wouldn’t take sides. I have close friends who are Jews, Muslims, pagans and atheists, and I love them all. That’s the real beauty of being an American. We can be different without getting our heads chopped off.
You can thank whatever god you worship for that and pray that people like Moore never get their way.