tagReviews & EssaysChristian Right vs the Bible?

Christian Right vs the Bible?


The Christian Right is famous for its opposition to pornography and sex education. This is ironic in view of the many sordid, even titillating, descriptions of sexual misbehavior in the Holy Bible. A consistent Christian Rightist ought to, for reasons I will show, demand that The Bible -- at least in its' unexpurgated form -- be taken out of public school libraries and urge its removal from hotels and respectable homes.

The story of Tamar's love life reads like the raunchiest sort of tabloid trash. A graphic description of coitus interruptus is given by the story of Onan: we are told that when "he went in to his brother's wife he spilled the semen on the ground."

It gets worse.

Contrary to the customs of the day, Judah does not order his last son Shela to impregnate Tamar. He seems to fear that Tamar is jinxed since his first two sons both died after being married to her. Thus, Tamar, who wants to have a baby that will share her first husband's lineage, hits upon a clever and devious plan. When she learns her father-in-law "is going up to Timnah," Tamar sheds her widow's weeds and veils her face. Then she sits at the entrance to that city, posing as a prostitute.

Judah has no compunction against casual, commercialized sex. He approaches Tamar (not suspecting she is his daughter-in-law because her face is veiled) and tries to strike a deal. He promises to pay with "a [goat] kid" but she demands security before service and he hands over his signet, cord, and staff. Then they have sex.

Afterwards, Tamar vacates the place, returning home to put her widow's garments back on and wait for the birth of the baby she has conceived. Three months later, Judah is informed that is daughter-in-law has "played the harlot" and is pregnant. The man who so nonchalantly played the customer instantly decides that Tamar must be burned alive for her transgression. He changes his mind when Tamar sends him his own signet, cord, and staff with the message that she is pregnant by the man to whom these things belong. Judah knows he is the father of her child-to-be and does not punish her, realizing that "she is more righteous than I, inasmuch as I did not give her to my son Shelah."

Would Born-Again Christians want their sons to follow the example of Judah, a man who easily frequents prostitutes? Would they want their daughters to deceive a fellow into illicit sex as Tamar did? These are hardly worthy role models for youth.

The story of Lot, a supposedly righteous man, can hardly be considered wholesome in any respect. When the mob in Sodom tells him to hand over his male guests (who are angels in disguise), he offers the rabble an alternative. He tells them that he has two daughters who are virgins and he will turn them over to be gang-raped if his guests are left alone.

While Lot may have something to recommend him as a host, he lacks any redeeming social value as a father. After all, wouldn't any decent father attempt to fight to the death to prevent the rape of his daughter -- especially a young virgin? What would any modern Christian think of a man who, faced with a gang set on attacking his guests, proffered his daughters to them and announced their virgin state in order to make their violation sound like an especially attractive alternative? I'm sure that most fathers would at least claim that they would try to fight it out with the gang or attempt to flee rather than take Lot's abominable course.

This family seems like quite a bunch of rotters. Lot's daughters fear their father won't approve of any young men they might try to marry, so they encourage him to get drunk and have sex with him while he is unconscious so that they may get pregnant. This behavior may be understandable (this is the same father, after all, who would have allowed them to be gang-raped) but is hardly excusable. Again, what would any Born Again Christian think of women who had sex with an unconscious man so they could bear babies who were both out-of-wedlock and the products of incest?

Many contemporary teenage girls will identify with the plight of Lot's daughters for the quandary in which the sisters find themselves is ever relevant: young ladies reluctant to bring the "boys-in-the-hood" home to meet Dad. However, do we want to inspire such females to this Biblical alternative?

Single motherhood, which the Religious Right abhors, is at an all-time high. Incest is appallingly common. Most Born-Again activists believe that reading "immoral" works can lead to imitative behavior. Thus, shouldn't this Book be kept out of the hands of today's impressionable young?

The Bible's sordidness is by no means confined to sex. A gruesome tale of murder and cannibalism is told in 2 Kings 6: 28-29. During a famine, one woman approaches another with a proposal: today we will eat your son, tomorrow mine. The first boy is murdered, boiled, and eaten by the two mothers. The next day the eaten boy's mother discovers that the other lady has gone back on her part of the deal and hidden her son from harm.

Conservatives often complain, with some justice, that in our modern, feminist-influenced world, women's traditional homemaking contributions are not given adequate respect. Will reading this story lead the reader to honor women's domestic role as mothers? As bargain hunters? Creative cooks?

The specter of cannibalism as a punishment from God is raised in Deuteronomy 28. In verses 54-57 we read that "The man who is the most tender and delicately bred among you will grudge food to his brother, to the wife of his bosom, and to the last of the children who remain to him; so that he will not give to any of them any of the flesh of his children whom he is eating . . . The most tender and delicately bred woman among you, who would not venture to set the sole of her foot upon the ground because she is so delicate and tender, will grudge to the husband of her bosom, to her son and to her daughter, her afterbirth that comes out from between her feet and her children whom she bears, because she will eat them secretly . . ."

In both cases not only is cannibalism described but the special horror of parents eating their young. Surely, if these ugly stories were in any other book, most conservative Christians would seek to have it removed from any school library. Such extraordinarily anti-family images can hardly encourage young people to respect and trust their elders.

Many will probably argue that these stories teach a moral. Onan was killed after he withdrew to prevent impregnating Tamar: an individual shouldn't disobey the word of God just because s/he* will not receive credit for the results. Judah got fooled by Tamar: one should not allow superstitious fear to deflect from duty.

That Lot was in a position where he was moved to offer his virgin daughters, rather than his guests, to a barbaric gang of rapists has been called a warning to be careful about what kind of neighborhood one moves into. Incest committed while Lot was drunk is said to be a warning against intoxication. The story of the woman who shared a boiled son's flesh only to find herself sans a meal the next day could be called a warning against getting in on a dirty deal.

However, finding such lessons from these squalid tales is reminiscent of the thin veneer of "redeeming social value" pinned onto porn for awhile during the '70s. A sexually explicit and sexually oriented movie would be introduced by a fellow in tie and suit saying something like "the makers of this film want to alert the public to a growing social problem -- suburban lesbianism" and the movie that followed would be nothing but nude young woman getting it on. A novel about incest could be prefaced with a couple of paragraphs celebrating the family and warning against allowing a marriage to deteriorate to the point where one partner must "look elsewhere -- anywhere -- for satisfaction."

No intelligent individual would accept such flimsy rationalizations for other productions -- why accept them for The Bible? Surely those Christians who are seriously committed to decency in literature could come up with a clean, bowdlerized Bible while consigning the dirty parts to the dust.

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byDeniseNoe© 18 comments/ 11796 views/ 4 favorites

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