Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Traditonal? Sure. Biblical?


There are no Chik-fil-A restaurants in my hometown. People tell me that they are good. Like, really good. I wouldn’t know. I’ve never eaten at one.

If Chik-fil-A wanted to build a restaurant here, I wouldn’t raise a finger to stop them. The rule of law prevails in the United States. Chik-fil-A has a right to do business here, provided they conform to the pertinent regulations. I might even welcome them because they would provide jobs and contribute to the local economy.

On the other hand, I don’t think I would choose to eat there. The reason, naturally, is that I disagree with their corporate stance on same-sex marriage. I don’t want to spend my fast-food dollar patronizing a business that contributes to organizations which actively seek to deny what I see as a basic civil right to a minority population.

I am not perfect in my moral judgment, but I buy shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee and I try shop at Wal-Mart as little as possible. I think I could forego the untasted pleasure of waffle fries.

Then again, I’m not out to organize any boycotts. If you choose to eat at Chik-fil-A, or even to speak out against same-sex marriage, I will defend your right to do so. I will disagree with you, vigorously and vehemently, but I will not try to stop you.

These waters, after all, are somewhat murky. Even Wal-Mart sells shade-grown, organic, fair trade coffee.

In the midst of all the furious flapdoodle pursuant to Chik-fil-A’s COO Dan Cathy’s anti-marriage equality remarks, I happened to be reading through the book of Deuteronomy once more. I was forcefully reminded that, while “One Man/One Woman” is certainly a traditional definition of marriage and a longstanding value in our culture, it is not, as some people claim, the biblical definition of marriage. In fact, there is no single definition of marriage in the Bible.

If a man has two wives, one of them loved and the other disliked, and if both the loved and the disliked have borne him sons, the firstborn being the son of the one who is disliked, then on the day when he wills his possessions to his sons, he is not permitted to treat the son of the loved as the firstborn in preference to the son of the disliked, who is the firstborn. He must acknowledge as firstborn the son of the one who is disliked, giving him a double portion of all that he has; since he is the first issue of his virility, the right of the firstborn is his.      (Deuteronomy 21:15-17)

I have quoted those verses from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Read them in whatever translation you like. Read them in the original Hebrew if you are able. But please note the following points:

1. These purport to be the direct words of God mediated through Moses.

2. This law assumes the possibility, even the legitimacy, of polygamy.

3. No judgment is rendered against multiple marriage, only against a father’s favoritism toward the children of one wife over those of another. 

Maybe the case for marriage as the union of one man and one woman can be made on other grounds, but simply calling it “biblical” is neither helpful nor accurate.

I don't know where the chart above originated. It has appeared, typos and all, on numerous websites. I lifted it from Dr. Robert Cargill's blog. Click it to enlarge.

Saturday, July 21, 2012


I am a bat-fan of long standing. I have probably read hundreds of Batman comic books. I'm sure that I watched every episode of the old Adam West TV series. I have watched a few of the many animated cartoons made of Batman. I have seen every big screen movie depiction of Batman, including the 1943 and 1949 serials, except the latest. Some of them more than once.

Batman is easily my favorite of the costumed superheroes, mostly because he is not "super." He has no special powers. He is human and quite mortal. His character is morally complex, psychologically twisted, and, well, open to diverse interpretations.

For my money, director Christopher Nolan's take on Batman has, with only a few missteps, been spot-on. All of which is to say that I have been anxiously anticipating the movie The Dark Knight Rises. I'm not a first-day-midnight-show kind of guy. I prefer to catch a matinee after the crowds thin a bit. But that does not mean I haven't been eager to see this film.

My excitement has been dampened somewhat by the news from Aurora, Colorado where a heavily armed man named James Cooper allegedly entered a movie theater during a midnight showing of Dark Knight Rises, and opened fire on the crowd killing a dozen people and wounding more than 50 others.

"Allegedly." Let's be clear about this. The shootings were horrifically real. We use the word "allegedly" only because Holmes has not been convicted.

When arrested in the theater's parking lot, Holmes is supposed to have told police "I am the Joker," a reference, I surmise, to the 2008 film The Dark Knight. In that movie Bruce Wayne's faithful butler Alfred obliquely refers to Batman's nemesis the Joker when he says "Some men just want to watch the world burn."

Senseless. If that word is overused in reports of this tragedy, it is because it is such an apt descriptor. When events of this type occur, we are left unable to make sense of them. Why do such things happen? How can a person go so terribly wrong? Our minds stagger and reel trying to make sense of it all, but there is no sense to be made.

Senseless. That doesn't stop pundits and bloggers from trying to make sense of things, usually by blaming their favorite scapegoats. Rep. Louie Gohmert said that the shootings were the result of "ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs." No, really, he said that. And mega-church pastor Rick Warren posted a tweet implying that blame rests on the teaching of science.

Finger-pointing and scapegoating are not helpful. Perhaps in the weeks and months ahead more helpful responses will be heard. Perhaps new ways to prevent such acts will be found. Then the tragic shootings may still be senseless, but at least we will have learned from them.

One thing I know. Occurrences such as this remind us vividly that life is short, fragile, and precious.   I have written before that I believe Jesus' core message can be summed up as "Trust God and take care of one another." Or, in more biblical language:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27)

What else can we do?

Hold those you love close. Pray for the victims, their families, and their friends. Pray, too, for the shooter and his family, if you can. Give to the relief of any who suffer. Help, if you are able, to find ways to prevent future tragedies. Trust God. Take care of one another.

I had a nice picture of Lewis Wilson, the first screen Batman, to illustrate this post, but when I got done writing it no longer seemed appropriate.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Love’s Courage To Be Strong

This morning at my weekly pastors’ text study, we discussed, among other things, next Sunday’s second reading, Ephesians 2:11-22. In this passage the apostolic author writes that Gentile Christians have been made a part of God’s people through the work of Jesus Christ ending the former divisions of Gentiles and Jews.

For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

I was particularly struck by the idea that hostility had been put to death on the cross. When I commented to that effect, one of my colleagues and friends asked, “But has it?”

And of course it hasn’t. Hostility among believers seems particularly rampant these days.

I was reminded of a favorite poem, a sonnet by Edwin Arlington Robinson (1859-1935).


Friendless and faint, with martyred steps and slow,
Faint for the flesh, but for the spirit free,
Stung by the mob that came to see the show,
The Master toiled along to Calvary;
We gibed him, as he went, with houndish glee,
Till his dimmed eyes for us did overflow;
We cursed his vengeless hands thrice wretchedly,--
And this was nineteen hundred years ago.

But after nineteen hundred years the shame
Still clings, and we have not made good the loss
That outraged faith has entered in his name.
Ah, when shall come love's courage to be strong!
Tell me, O Lord -- tell me, O Lord, how long
Are we to keep Christ writhing on the cross! (1897)

The image in my mind is this: Hostility was crucified with Christ. Like all things Christian, the death of hostility is a reality that is not yet fulfilled. When fulfilliment comes hostility will finally be destroyed. Until that day, when Christians are hostile toward one another, or toward the world that God so loves, Christ still writhes on the cross.

Scripture is quoted from the New Revised Standard Version. Robinson’s poem was copied and pasted from this website. Illustrating this post is Rembrandt’s remarkable painting Descent from the Cross by Candlelight.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012



Hosted by a different website each month, the Biblical Studies Carnival is a round-up of blogposts in the field of...well...biblical studies. No matter where it is hosted, the Carnival is always full of fascinating scholarly links.

By "fascinating" I mean "fascinating to me." Your mileage and all that...

This month's Carnival is found at Mike Kok's Gospel of Mark blog. It includes a link to Joel Watts' post of Jordan's Hypothesis.

Yay, Jordan!

I found the carnival poster image at the Pocket Blonde blog, which deals with another of my interests: pens and inks.