Thursday, September 29, 2011

Of Homosexuality and Shellfish: A Letter to President Sheen

Charlie Sheen, who I must confess was one of my favorite actors when I was a kid, has gotten much press recently because of his incoherent rants about this or that. But I'm not as interested in that as another Sheen rant that happened much earlier than that of Charlie's.

It was to be a great refutation of the evangelical stance on homosexuality. The great Martin Sheen, Mr. President of the "West Wing," calls out an evangelical radio personality for her calling homosexuality an "abomination." Supposedly, the Bible-savvy president one-ups the radio personality by showing her that the Bible says all sorts of things we don't practice or think are wrong today (of course, many of the things the Bible says were thought to be wrong in the eyes of wayward cultures in biblical times as well, but that's another story). Of course, the show was a big political engine for the left, as it sought to make the liberal viewpoint on every issue look like the right one. I don't usually discuss politics specifically, but this was just an ignorant attack concerning how we should not apply the Bible. You can view it here So here is my letter to the now ex-President.

Dear President Sheen:

You begin your refutation of the conservative radio personality by pointing out that the Bible sanctions slavery in Exodus 21:7. Actually, Mr. President, that's what is called casuistic, or "case," law. What appears in the protasis is the situation, whether seen as wicked or otherwise (usually it is seen as an evil done, as it is here). The sanction is in the apodosis. Hence, God sanctions the provisions that are to be taken when something unjust has been done. These provisions usually provide care for the one against whom the injustice has been applied. So that law doesn't actually sanction selling your daughter into slavery. She can rest assured. But maybe we can argue that your sending her to Georgetown without a transcendent moral compass is like selling her into prostitution, as per Leviticus 19:29?

You, then, mention that you had a Chief of Staff, who worked on the Sabbath, and according to Exodus 35:2, so you say, should be put to death. Actually, Mr. President, you wouldn't have to. You see, the Sabbath law exists as the ultimate proclamation of YHWH as the sovereign of Israel. It proclaims both that the individual is devoted to YHWH and to His work of salvation in the Exodus. Hence, to reject that law by not observing it is to reject YHWH and His salvific work. You can maybe see that if it is true that a relationship with YHWH was the source of life and salvation that practices that taught others by way of example to shun such a relationship were destructive to the entire community. Such a practice would lead to corruption among the Israelites in that they too would begin to shun that proclamation and then the worship of YHWH altogether. Under a theocracy, one that we who are believers assume to be genuine, this is a practice of idolatry, the very thing that damns all of mankind. God would not allow this in His camp, simply because He was not willing to damn His people for the sake of letting a chaotic agent live. Hence, he was to be executed. However, at the advent of Christ, the kingdoms are separated into secular and sacred, state and church, since the kingdom, the theocracy, is made up of all believers from within the nations. Ergo, neither do we carry the sword for our punishments any longer for spiritual matters, nor do we observe the Creation and Exodus event as the primary acts of the salvific works of God to be proclaimed in the observance of a Sabbath. Hence, we observe the day of the Lord, i.e., Sunday, but we reserve our entire lives, not just a single day, for remembering and worshiping the Lord. But I do agree with you that those who shun the assembling of ourselves together and just choose to work instead should be rebuked and placed under church discipline if they persist. That is the sum total of our role as God's people after Israel had served its purpose as the bearers of the divine message for all of humanity. Thanks for allowing me to clarify that point.

Then you mention that the touching of the skin of a dead animal makes one unclean, thus making all of our sports teams defiled. Of course, our sports teams are likely defiled for many reasons, Mr. President, but you should know that, as in any culture, images through customs are constructed for teaching purposes. They are important symbols employed for the instruction of something moral, i.e., principles that are greater (and much more enduring) than the symbol itself. God is the one who made the skin of an animal, and God is the one who set its time of death, so He doesn't think it's morally unclean, as He is the one who made it. What it does do is teach something about sin and corruption through a physical picture of something that is physically dirty. It also has a secondary function of preserving the people from sickness and death, or do you allow your children to play with the corpses of dead animals they find along the road? By the way, that is the reference to which the law is directed. The Israelites obviously touched animal hides for clothing and their shelters, so you might want to look into the context for that one (as with the others).

I confess that when you mention the mixing of seeds and threads as a offenses for which you would have to put your brother and mother to death, I am at a loss. I simply cannot find what you're talking about in the Bible. I noticed you left out the references for these, so I'm simply at a loss when it comes to tracking down that to which you are referring. Both issues are certainly mentioned (Lev 19:19; Deut 22:9, 12), again, as pictures to teach boundaries between morally pure and impure things, but I'm not sure where you're getting that anyone was stoned or burned to death for doing it. Even the immoral activity in one of those passages for which the picture is presented is one where the individuals involved are explicitly forbidden to be put to death (Lev 19:20-22). The other is a case of adultery, which I'm sure you know was a capital crime in most civilized societies for thousands of years, since it was an ultimate betrayal of family and society as a whole. So I'm not sure where you got that one. Perhaps, it was for dramatic effect, so that we would all be in shock and awe at how the Bible is just as unreasonable and harsh as we all imagine and pretend it to be within our modern narrative. Such additions to the text manufacture some much needed wind for empty sails. Perhaps, your argument is just such a sail in need of some hot air, Mr. President.

By the way, thank you so much for not bringing up the argument that shellfish are also an abomination. I have the nasty habit of reading the Hebrew text instead of the English, so I know that the word used (hb(wt) in Deuteronomy14:3 is qualified by the word Cq# in Leviticus 11:10-23, which is not the word for a moral abomination to the Lord, but to something that is disgusting to us. In fact, one does not even need to read the Hebrew, as this law is continually clarified, even in English translations as that which is disgusting Mkl "to you" (i.e., the Israelites). I guess bugs and slimy things weren't as appetizing to them as they are to us, so God decided to use it as another teaching-picture about the holy versus the profane. The Israelites themselves were an abomination to the Egyptians, but they weren't to God. This is different when something is actually an abomination in and of itself, because it is an abomination to the Lord, not necessarily to us. In fact, if homosexuality was disgusting to us, there would be no need to command us not to do it. This also tells us that the commands concerning shellfish must just be representative of something moral, since the Israelites wouldn't eat them anyway. So the disgust of shellfish is culturally bound to the Israelites, since it is they who find it disgusting, and it is to and through them that revelation comes into the world. What is not culturally bound is that which is an abomination to God, since He is not culturally bound or trying to give Himself a symbolic lesson on holiness. It just must be an abomination, period.

Thanks for your honest engagement, Mr. President. I enjoy Hollywood Presidents the most, since there is no sense of reality or accountability to what one argues. There is only the aesthetics of rhetoric that muster blind emotion to gear the masses of sheep over the cliff. If the problem is that you don't have a Bible, I can send you one, so that next time you can read those verses you quoted in context rather than cut and pasted onto a teleprompter. Thank you for your invaluable service to our country. We're a much more ethically astute people for it.


Bryan C. Hodge
President of ITAC (i.e., the Informed Tight ### Club)

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