November 24, 2003

Many seek my advice on spiritual matters. It could be my charisma, or the rumor that I’ve committed most of the sins in the Good Book and therefore must be something of an authority. Indeed, I have read the Bible. Some years ago, weary of having it selectively quoted at me, I purchased The One Year Bible, neatly divided into 365 daily readings. I began reading and one year later said, “Whoa.” Jeremiah, in particular, made for a very long October. But now I know everything and am happy to respond whenever an inquiry is made.

The most recent question, put to me during the furor over the ordaining of a homosexual Episcopalian bishop, was, “Would it be okay to stone him?” The answer, directly from the pages of scripture, is a resounding, “You betcha!” Homosexuality is clearly an abomination — an offensive violation of established custom, an abhorrent act. It says so right in Leviticus 18:22: “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” And Leviticus 20:13 adds, “they shall surely be put to death.” Break out the fossil collection!

But, and I add this only as a caution, look out for the snags. For one, in the very same Bible, in John 8:7, Christ himself says, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone.” So before we pick a starting hurler, we have to sort out anyone who has committed one or more of the other abominations, and who, if sincere, will take their rightful place inside the circle with the bishop.

What other abominations does the Bible specify? Of course, adultery (Lev 18:20), sex with animals (Lev 18:23), remarrying one’s wife after she’s had another husband in between (Deut 24:4), or approaching any woman and humming “Strangers in the Night” during the time of her “uncleanness” (Lev 18:19). Cross-dressing is out (Deut 22:5), and that includes Halloween costumes, slacks on women, bib overalls on little girls, or a wife wearing her husband’s favorite Oxford button-down. And more on button-downs in a moment.

Other abominations include tarot readings, glancing at your horoscope, trimming one’s beard, and getting a tattoo, even if it says, “Mom” (Lev 19:26-28). Haughty eyes (Prov 6:17) and telling lies (Prov 6:17, 12:22) are big abominations. Being untruthful also includes false weights and measures (Prov 11:1), or any other dishonesty in business. “Everyone who acts unjustly is an abomination to the LORD your God” (Prov 11:16).

What do abominators have for dinner? Rare steaks off the grill (Lev 17:10), Lobster Newburg at The Krebs and crab cakes in Baltimore (Lev 11:10), and a rack of ribs at the Dinosaur Bar-B-Que (Lev 11:7).

But abominations are not just about bodily functions. Charging or paying interest are abominations. Bankers and anyone with a mortgage, car loan or credit card debt will be unavailable to throw the first stone, regardless of the interest rate (Psalm 15:1-5, Jeremiah 15:10).

Graven images of other gods are an abomination (Deut 7:25). Thus the Happy Buddha on my dresser and my postcards of the Great Buddha at Kamakura would excuse me from taking the lead in rock throwing, if I hadn’t already fallen by the wayside.

My personal favorite abomination is wearing blended fabrics. Deuteronomy 22:11 forbids wearing a material made of wool and linen, but Leviticus 19:19 says it’s an abomination to wear any blended material, period. Hence a woman in a man’s button-down can be doubly abominable if it’s an easy care blend of cotton and polyester.

Of course, when confronted with such information, there are people who will tell you that the blended fabrics abomination is really just a symbolic warning that Jews should not mix with other cultures, and that the dietary laws were set aside for Gentiles at the Council of Jerusalem, and that these “other abominations” were about self-preservation, hygiene and just for Orthodox Jews anyway. In short, when something they do is shown to be an abomination, many abominators become instant anthropologists, Biblical scholars and historians as well.

So why do active abominators continue to refer to the Bible when condemning homosexuals? Are such men and women unaware of their own abominations detailed in the same scriptures? Or are they simply counting on their audience being unaware?

For myself, I am sure that people of integrity, once informed of their own abominable behavior, will step into the circle and accept for themselves whatever punishment they were going to hand out to others. “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) That’s the verse I recall whenever someone uses the Bible to justify a pet bias.

 * * *

My thanks to an esteemed scholar and sage, the late Terry Johnson of Fort Smith, Arkansas, whose gift of The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible comes in handy often, and especially on occasions like this one. And I thank my nephew, Sean Winship of Nara, Japan, for the postcard of the Great Buddha at Kamakura, and for the trip to see it in person.


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