Thursday, August 22, 2013

One One-Hundredth of One Percent

To my recent spate of readers and commenters from the Church of Christ who were directed here by my exchanges with Doug Harvey: you might want to cover your ears for this one.

There is news out of Chattanooga, Tennessee, that a local Church of Christ congregation has delivered an ultimatum to the family of a local police detective who is in an openly lesbian relationship: the family can repent and publicly ask the church for forgiveness for their "sin" of publicly standing beside their police detective daughter during a legislative process ensuring equal protection for same sex couples...and if they do not do this, the family must leave the congregation that they have been members of for over 60 years.

Predictably, it was more than enough to send me oozing into a righteous fury.

Look.  I get it.  Scripture says that same-sex intercourse is sinful.  It says so in a grand total of six verses.  Those verses are Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, Romans 1:26 and 1:27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, and 1 Timothy 1:10.  (I'm not counting the story of Sodom and Gomorrah here, because Ezekiel 16:49 makes it very clear that Sodom was destroyed for far more than sexual immorality.)

Six verses.  Now, out of idle curiosity during our weekly Skype date earlier this week, Carrie and I calculated just how much of the Bible is taken up by those six verses.  According to this count, there are 31,103 verses in the Old Testament and 23,145 verses in the New Testament, for a total of 54,248 verses.  Divide 6 by 54,248, and you get 0.0001106, or a little over one one-hundredth of one percent (since one percent in decimal form is 0.01).

So, roughly one one-hundredth of one percent of the Bible addresses same-sex intercourse.  Let's compare that count, to, say, poverty.  Now, this is a little more translation-dependent, but this source puts that count at roughly 2,000 verses in the Contemporary English Version (CEV) translation.  2,000 divided by 54,248 roughly equals 3.7%, which may not sound like a lot, but it means that poverty is addressed by over 333 times more Bible verses than homosexuality is.

How about something a bit more general, like money as a whole, or stewardship?  This count puts that number at 2,350 verses, or roughly 4.3%, or over 391 times more Bible verses than the six verses that address homosexuality.

I could do this all day.  Divorce?  58, or nearly ten times as many as on homosexuality.  Adultery?  190, or over 31 times as many as on homosexuality.

Or...dare I say it, how about love?  450.

You get the idea.  And I haven't even touched the nature of God, or of Jesus, yet.  I'm just talking about what Scripture says about Christian behavior here.

So when I read about a church that decides to take an all-or-nothing stand on the basis of one one-hundredth of all of Scripture, I immediately think of what Jesus said to the Pharisees in Matthew 23: "You blind guides!  You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!"

I asked this of Doug Harvey in one of our subsequent conversations, but at what point did homosexuality become a "here I stand, I can do no other" non-negotiable for conservative churches?  The Bible says more about slaves obeying their masters than it does about homosexuality, and we are perfectly fine with discarding those instructions (at least, on a literal level) because we know slavery to be morally wrong.

So why are we not doing the same thing here when we know that homophobia is also morally wrong?  Or, since when did "teaching the whole counsel of God" mean super-sizing these six verses at the expense of the other 54,242?  

And if you do believe same-sex intercourse is sinful, why would you try to kick out a family for standing by their lesbian daughter?  Aren't churches supposed to be in the business of teaching people, not exiling them?  If you believe someone is doing wrong, you don't throw them out, you hold them in fellowship and try to help them (Mark 2:13-17).

What on earth could it possibly be about these six verses that have caused us to lose sight of the larger themes of God's own Word as revealed to us in Scripture?

I just don't get my own religion sometimes.

Yours in Christ,

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